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Pay It Forward

Mara R. Lockard
Newnan GA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 3, July-August-September 2007, p. 54

In the Warner Brothers film "Pay It Forward," social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (played by Kevin Spacey) gives his students an assignment to "think of an idea that would change the world, and put it into action." His 11-year-old student, Trevor McKinney (played by Haley Joel Osment), develops a plan in which each person helps three people in need in hopes of enabling a significant change in their lives. The only "payment" each person is required to give for being helped is to pass along help to three other people, to "pay it forward." Then each of those people must "pay it forward" as well. A 1999 book by Catherine Ryan Hyde inspired the movie. I immediately thought of seven people...the seven Founders of La Leche League!

I recalled how they held that first official meeting on October 17, 1956, attended by the seven Founders and five pregnant friends. Then women they had never met began attending their meetings. That original Group split into two. Eventually, many of those women who had been helped wanted to form La Leche League Groups in their own towns. The torch kept being passed, and here we are today celebrating the 50th Anniversary of La Leche League!

Intrigued by the parallels, I posted on the LLL Community Network to read more about mothers' reasons for becoming Leaders. Loree Stickles-Noonan of Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA told me that an "Oprah" show about finding your passion and giving back inspired her toward leadership. She had received a great deal of emotional support in breastfeeding her daughter, Murphee, and wanted to "help others the way I'd been helped." Shannon Blakely of Bedford, Texas, USA wanted to "give back something that was given to me." Shannon nursed her twins for three and a half years: "The hardest thing I have ever had to do...and without the support of LLL I would not have stuck with it." Now she loves helping other mothers to breastfeed, and especially enjoys hearing the success stories of other mothers of twins. She adds, "I was given a gift of helping, and I love to be able to use it with La Leche League!"

Rosetta Bartels of Inman, Kansas, USA describes herself as a "product of the 60s...who believed the world could be better and that I had a responsibility to do something to make that happen." She decided to become an LLL Leader "to return something to society, to repay the people who helped me become more of what I wanted to be." Karen Smith of St. Charles, Illinois, USA survived the challenge of working and pumping and "knew I had something I could give back because my experience seemed unique in LLL, even though many of the moms who attended our Group were working and pumping." Deborah Sowery-Quinn of Ontario, Canada shared that her experience of nursing her first child "was a disaster, but I was able to breastfeed my second thanks to the confidence and support that LLL gave me...this was my foundation for wanting to become a Leader, to help other women avoid an experience like my first, and to experience the joy of breastfeeding a baby."

Helen Grant of Moore, Oklahoma, USA adds the following: "Being knowledgeable of basic breastfeeding skills, knowing how and where to look up resources for people needing help, or just being there to hold a meeting so mothers can come to settle down in a group of other nursing mothers and feel good about their commitment to nurse their children has been reward enough for me, because personally for myself, that was the whole point of becoming a Leader."

"I really enjoy talking with mothers about their children," says Rebecca Sato of Tokyo, Japan. She felt "especially gratified when a friend successfully breastfed her second child after a disastrous start with her first child....she was proof that the right information makes such a difference...I was so pleased to be a part of that!"

After Erin Leiter's (Elkart, Indiana, USA) son was born, the pair had great difficulty with breastfeeding, and she made the heartbreaking choice to quit within two weeks. She shares that "even while I was still trying, I vowed that if we could overcome our problems, I would help other women breastfeed their babies....I didn't overcome my problems with him, but when my daughter was born, I was determined to make it work....at three and a half years old, she continues to nurse, and I kept my promise!"

In my own application for LLL leadership, I stated, "I want to give back to LLL what they gave to me... I want to do my part to make the world an easier place for breastfeeding mothers so that someday, if my daughter, Gabrielle, chooses to be a nursing mother, she will have the support that she needs as well. I also believe that my becoming a Leader will enable Gabrielle to grow up knowing the benefits of breastfeeding." Perhaps someday Gabrielle will also "pay it forward."

In the movie, teacher Eugene Simonet tells his class that "the realm of possibilities exists within each of you," much as the potential to breastfeed exists in every woman. It is up to us as Leaders to help as many mothers as possible to achieve that potential for a happy breastfeeding relationship with their babies.

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