The idea that Trevor comes up with is so simple and so naïve that when others learn of it they are dismissive. Even Trevor himself begins to doubt when his "pay it forward" plan seems to founder on a combination of bad luck and the worst of human nature.
What is his idea? Trevor chooses three people for whom he will do a favor, and then when those people thank him and ask how they might pay him back, he will tell them that instead of paying him back, they should each "pay it forward" by choosing three people for whom they can do favors, and in turn telling those people to pay it forward. It's nothing less than a human chain letter of kindness and good will.
Does his plan work? No. And yes -- it works wonderfully, but only after it has seemed to Trevor that maybe all his efforts have been for naught. The first person he chooses to help -- a homeless man to whom he gives his paper-route money so he can make himself presentable enough to find a job -- disappoints him by returning to a life of dissolution and eventually ending up in jail. The second is a lady on his paper route, old and alone and infirm, and with a garden that needs tending. No sooner has Trevor begun to help her, however, than she goes and dies on him.
The third person Trevor hopes to help is his teacher, Reuben St. Clair, a scarred, bitter, untrusting man who seems to come truly alive only when in front of his class. Trevor's goal is to match him with his mother, Arlene, a pretty, hardworking woman who has raised Trevor more or less alone, but who Trevor feels has a lot to offer the right man. It proves not…