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Actor Pays Forward Act of Kindness

Broadway actor Claybourne Elder has a tradition that he loves to enact, most recently during the run of his current show, the musical comedy Company. It starts with food. Once a month, he and his four-year-old son Bo make a special trip to a diner. Once there, Bo selects a person and Elder pays for their food. They like to call it “special breakfast.” Elder says, “I think exposing him to that sort of generosity from an early age is very important,”

Elder is committed to paying generosity forward because at a young age, he too was blessed by a stranger’s generosity. Elder was a 23-year-old aspiring actor who had just finished watching a play, when a stranger came up to him in the back of the theater. The man said, “You look like you were enjoying that show more than people in the expensive seats.” He then gave Elder $200, and told him to buy good seats to see the musical Sweeney Todd. He added, “It’ll change your life.” Against what felt like his better judgment, Elder took the man’s money and followed his instructions, but not before taking a quick photo with him.

Turns out, that stranger was right. That version of Sweeney Todd, which starred Patti LuPone, further ignited Elder’s passion for theater, and motivated him to continue chasing his dream. Now his role in Company has him sharing a stage with LuPone herself.

Elder recently decided to level up his gratitude game by giving away two free tickets to Company. In an Instagram post, he explained that he wanted the tickets to go to someone who couldn’t normally afford to go, and he included the photo he took with that anonymous benefactor all those years ago.

Several strangers saw his post and sent him enough additional money to give away 10 free tickets instead of two. In addition, one of his Instagram followers recognized the man in the picture, and put them in touch.

The two shared a FaceTime call days later. Mark Howell was the man who met Elder that day. “I wanted to be an actor when I was his age,” said Howell. “I saw some of my enthusiasm and passion for theater in him.” Elder says, “He gave me this gift 15 years ago, and I feel like, in a way, I got to give him a gift back.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

When we are generous with strangers, we are modeling the unconditional love that God offers to each of us.

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