Bitter or gracious? Which can change the world?
In the sad but wonderful motion picture, "Pay It Forward" (Warner Bros., 2000), 10-year-old Trevor McKinney suggests to his class the means by which he proposes to change the world. You do a good deed for three people, and what they offer to pay you or just say thanks, you ask them to "pay it forward." The idea catches on, and though the boy himself tragically dies in a knife fight, chains of people paying it forward move outward from him in all directions.
On Thursday, November 3, 2005, Palestinian 12-year-old Ahmed al-Khatib was shot twice by Israeli soldiers who mistook his toy gun for a real one. Ahmed was rushed to the hospital in Jenin and then transferred to Rambam hospital. After three days, however, doctors informed his father that Ahmed had no chance of surviving.
That's when his father gave permission for his sons organs to be donated to whoever needed them, including Israelis. He recalled that one of their family members had died for lack of a kidney transplant.
Six Israelis received Ahmed's organs, including Samah Gadban, a 12-year-old girl who had been waiting for five years for a heart transplant. Other recipients included a six-month-old baby, a 56-year-old woman, two five-year-old boys, and a four-year-old girl.
Ahmed's father said he hoped that the gesture would speak to the conscience of all Israeli fathers and mothers so that they might work to end the cycle of violence in Israel and the occupied territories.
Mr. Khatib could have been embittered by his son's tragic death. (More than 700 Palestinian children and about 100 Israeli children have been killed in the fighting of the past five years.) He could allow the poison of hatred to calcify his heart even to the point that he would agree to become a killing machine for some group of radical militants. He could have withdrawn, no longer wanting to take part in a world so cruel and unjust. Instead, he decided to "pay it forward."
Likely Mr. Khatib is unacquainted with the epistles of Paul, yet he is living out the Apostle's principle, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).
One boy's tragic death and one father's gracious gesture may not bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. But heart-felt thanksgiving must be going up to the Father of All Living from six families who had all but lost hope.
Bitterness accomplishes nothing except the spread of more bitterness. Graciousness can heal your own heart and then make others, first grateful, then gracious themselves. When you are tempted to be bitter, when you want to strike back, look for a way to "Pay it forward." Who knows? By God's providence and with His blessing, you could change the world!
Steve Singleton, DeeperStudy.com