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  • Severna Park United Methodist youth lit the first Sunday of Advent candle. A basket on the altar held envelopes with $100 bills for the Act of Kindness Project.
    Photo by Leslie Dolsak
    Severna Park United Methodist youth lit the first Sunday of Advent candle. A basket on the altar held envelopes with $100 bills for the Act of Kindness Project.

100 Acts Of Kindness

Leslie Dolsak
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January 10, 2018

Choosing Kindness As An Everyday Habit

If you were given $100 to produce an act of kindness, what would you do? Members of Severna Park United Methodist Church (SPUMC) were tasked with this question when an anonymous donor delivered $10,000 in the form of crisp $100 bills to 100 parishioners.

“There was a wonderful stir when we announced the project in church,” said the Rev. Ron Foster, lead pastor at SPUMC. “This project is totally connected to who we say we are at the core: a community that loves, serves and follows. The Intentional Acts of Kindness Project is really just one expression of claiming our identity as followers of Jesus in a very tangible way,” Foster added.

The inspirational idea started with an anonymous donor couple from the church. “Right after the Charlottesville riots, I was driving to work, listening to the radio,” the donor explained. “I was discouraged about our country. I stopped at a Starbucks. Just on an impulse, I got a gift card and told the cashier to use the gift card until it was gone. The woman behind me in line touched my arm and told me, ‘What a lovely surprise.’ I just wanted to hide behind the counter and watch people’s excitement throughout the day. As adults, we don’t have moments like that. I wanted other people to feel this joy.”

Since the first Sunday of Advent, when the 100 $100 bills were distributed in worship, it’s been a flurry of joy-filled stories. The merry deeds done include the following: providing local children with winter coats, giving a refugee a cellphone to connect with family, tipping a waiter generously and paying for a struggling family’s groceries.

Some parishioners felt moved to give to people they did not know. One parishioner, who prefers to go unnamed, threw a pizza party for a sizable homeless population in Baltimore. While breaking bread with the group, he was struck by a remark from a guest: “Most folks just drop the food off; rarely do they stick around to share a meal.” This was a true testament that kindness can be felt more than bought.

Alyssa Pepper decided to hone in on someone she knew, a woman suffering from a rare form of peripheral T-cell lymphoma. With the $100, Pepper compiled a care package with daily comforts: soft sheets, socks, sweatpants and soup. What moved the recipient most? How the generosity came about. “If I had used my own money, she wouldn’t have accepted any of it; she would have insisted on paying me,” Pepper explained. “She only accepted this because it was given as an act of kindness from someone anonymous. She was humbled. She intends to pass along the kindness once she’s feeling better.”

It’s the ripple effect of generosity, the urge to pay it forward, that the donor was hoping to achieve.

It’s working in Muteteke’s household. “Everyone in our family is intentionally looking for kind ways to act each day to demonstrate God's great grace and love,” the Rev. Enger Muteteke said.

Not only does the recipient gain from the experience; the giver does so as well. “Not any one project could have spread out the joy the way this project has,” the anonymous donor observed.

To go one step further, many participants matched their $100 gift. “I’m a big believer that generosity is contagious and can become a holy habit or lifestyle for people, not just a Christmastime project,” Foster explained.

For more stories of intentional acts of kindness, go to www.severnaparkumc.org/choosekind.

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