Pay it Forward

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“We’re all self made. But we all had help.

Whatever success, growth or enlightenment you may have experienced in this life happened because someone helped you. The school you attended was built by someone else who cared enough about future generations to want them to have the opportunity to learn. Whatever job you may currently have is yours because someone made the decision to give you a shot. The food you eat, the place you live, the car you drive, everything about your life happened because someone else cared enough to Pay it Forward.

Of course you worked hard to earn it. Your own decisions and behaviors guided your ultimate trajectory toward the happiness or misery you are experiencing right now. But at every turn, someone opened a door, lent you a hand, or gave you a supportive word (or a whack in the head) when you needed it.

How about your education? Even if you think you paid for it yourself, an important part of that education happened because someone else invested in it. Someone taught you their core values, helped you with homework, gave you a ride and were there for you when you needed them. Nobody gets anywhere in life without the help of someone else. We need to acknowledge that every day.

And pay it forward.

If a mentor taught you some truly winning habits that have positively impacted you, be a mentor yourself and model those behaviors. If there is an organization you admire who is making a positive difference in the world, give it some of your time, talent and treasure so it can continue making that difference for another generation.

Too often, we file life-changing experiences as business transactions. Here’s a common phrase that our Green Line student fund raisers hear all the time. “I paid for my education and got a good education. I wish the university would stop asking me for money.” When I hear this, I feel sorry for the person who said it. Truth is, there were men and women of vision who came before you that invested in that institution, so you could benefit. It is now your responsibility to ensure that others can have that experience.

This coming Friday, Michigan State University launches our latest Capital Campaign. Wherever you earned your education consider this: If your life is any better as a result of the things you’ve learned, the friends you’ve made or the advantages you enjoyed as a result, consider supporting the institution that made it possible. You can be sure that someone just like you did the same thing.. so that some someone just like you could know what it feels like to succeed.

As you head into the new week, think about the people, the places and the experiences that have helped you be the best possible person. Take a moment to thank a mentor. And invest a little of yourself in the people, organizations and institutions that have had the biggest impact on your life.

The quality of our existence today is the direct result of the sum total of the contributions of our ancestors. The quality of the world we leave to the next generation is totally up to us.

Give to MSU here.