May 18, 2024
Annapolis, US 63 F

Making magic at Severna Park United Methodist Church $100 at a time

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

“There was a wonderful stir when we announced the project in church,” said Reverend 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. 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,” the donor explained. “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.”

So, 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: providing local children with winter coats, giving a refugee a cell phone to connect with family, tipping a waiter generously to 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 group of homeless 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.” True testament that kindness can be felt more than bought.

Other parishioners, like 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,” Reverend Enger Muteteke said.

Not only does the recipient gain from the experience, so does the giver. “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 Christmas-time project,” Foster explained.

For more stories of Intentional Acts of Kindness go to:

— Leslie Dolsak


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