This is Shah Jahan, a Muslim immigrant who I met Christmas Eve when I was giving out backpacks to the homeless. I had one backpack left when I met him. And, he was SO excited to get the backpack because he had no gloves. His fingers were literally turning blue.
As I was walking off, I saw him walk over and give the backpack to a guy across the way. I walked back and asked him what was up. He explained that the other guy had no socks and needed them more he did.
I almost started crying right there. It was such a beautiful gesture and act of sheer selflessness. I asked Shah to wait. I jumped on the subway and raced home and grabbed a backpack, with food, toiletries, clothing and all the stuff we normally give out, and added it some extra pairs of socks and gloves, and rushed back to give Shah a full backpack all his own.
I was so incredibly moved and flutter with this man’s spirit of generosity — when he has nothing but the clothes on his back and a few items he lugs around in a garbage bag. So, I canceled my afternoon plan to grab coffee with a friend and took both Shah and the other guy (named George) to a diner for dinner.
How amazingly beautiful to see someone sacrifice the one thing he needed most to someone else simply because he felt the other guy had even less of nothing than he did.
The “Pay it Forward” movement is not a new concept. According to Wikipedia, it dates all the way back to 317 BC where it was used as a key plot concept for a play in ancient Athens. There are small documented events of the “pay it forward” notion throughout history.
The simplest way to define “pay it forward” is that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead. One of the easiest examples of this is buying a coffee for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop and then they buy a coffee for the person behind them and so on.
Shah Jahan had barely anything with him on that freezing cold day, yet he handed off the backpack we gave to him immediately, without hesitation. That in itself is the true definition of paying it forward.
Clearly, the threat to America from this Muslim immigrant is an overload of kindness and compassion.