Pay it forward 

Oklahoma City, and many other regional communities recently opened our doors to victims of hurricanes Gustav and Ike. We are all proud of the continued, reliable, gracious generosity of our citizens, professionals and churches. These civic "servants" leave home and career responsibilities over and over again to serve those less fortunate who have endured vicious acts of mankind and nature alike.     

On an equally important, yet less catastrophic scale, the communities around Central Oklahoma annually have days for reaching out to those needing help, such as the Day of Caring, Christmas in July, and other programs of arranged service opportunities.

What a juxtaposition these actions are in comparison to other acts filling our newspapers of incidents of child abuse and neglect, of drunken driving incidents, of armed robbery or vandalism and even murder.

Recently, the Norman Public Schools began a yearlong curriculum for all middle and high school students titled "Rachel's Challenge." The program was created by the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine shootings in Colorado in 1999. It was inspired by Rachel to teach students to treat others with kindness and compassion. This program has demonstrated changes in attitudes and behaviors among school populations who have experienced it across the country.

Might the answer to many issues " school bullying and indifference to children who are not members of the in-crowd, crimes against our neighbors and our communities " be as simple as listening with respect, treating others as we would be treated, offering a genuine and caring moment to those in pain or panic, and sharing our abundance with those who have little? Could we actually step-up our individual partnering with churches, government and private organizations to make our world and our communities all we can be?

We have seen that evidence of this over and over. And, if no specific recollection comes to mind, consider the examples in popular culture " many true accounts of lives lived " through the movies "Pay it Forward," "Freedom Writers," "Lean on Me," "Coach Carter" and "Remember the Titans."

We may not live lives that are recorded by Hollywood. But our actions, good and not so good, are recorded in the lives of our children, our neighbors, our colleagues and frequently on anonymous bystanders. Enjoy making a difference the next time let a young mother with irritable children or the individual with only a few items go ahead of you in the checkout line, when you check on that elderly neighbor simply because you haven't seen him for several days, when you really take the time to listen to someone else, or when you ask the delivery man about his day.

No matter how well or poorly things seem to be going for us at this very moment, we are blessed to live in this country. We are blessed to be in this state with good, caring, generous citizens. And as we pay it forward, we make a difference in the lives of others, we make a difference in who we are, and we make our community closer to all we can be.

Boyd, a former state legislator and 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, is owner and chief executive officer of Policy and Performance Consultants Inc.

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Laura Boyd

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