Soon begins the season of giving; but why not jump-start the benevolence? In a world of critics, a kind act can go a long way — especially when there are hundreds of random acts of giving going around in a small community like New Paltz. As part of their 2011 stewardship campaign, members of the New Paltz Reformed Church are participating in “200 Random Acts of Kindness” throughout the New Paltz community. According to Andy Swanander, the Church’s stewardship director, “We were trying to promote not only small or big acts of kindness, but to have people experience that feeling, that immediate gratification you get when you do something really nice for someone.”
To that end, the Stewardship Committee has printed up 400 business-styled cards — two for each of its members, and another 100 for the congregation’s youth — that have a picture of the Reformed Church on the front, and on the back, a sun with these words:
“You’ve just been gifted with a random act of kindness.
It’s amazing how much a small act of kindness from a stranger can bring more sunshine into your day, isn’t it?
Kindness: Pass it on!”
“There are 500 cards out there and the membership is excited about it. There’s a real buzz going around, with people telling stories about the random acts of kindness they’ve been able to do and how it felt,” said Swanander.
With the “pass it on,” portion of the card, the idea is a “pay it forward” (from the film), meaning that when you’ve been given a gift or someone has treated you kindly, to pass it forward to another person; and if that is set in motion, it could change the world, one small act of kindness after another.
“There are so many examples of things we presented to our membership that they could do, and many more that they’ve come up with on their own,” said Swanander. “You could shovel a neighbor’s driveway; collect canned goods for Family of New Paltz; leave a kind note for a family member or friend; make dinner for a neighbor; pay for the person’s toll behind you in line; call a parent to say you love them; offer to babysit for free; pat someone on the back for a job well-done; smile and say hello to a stranger…”
The idea is to do as many things anonymously as you can, and carry that feeling of joy inside you without having to let the person know that it was you who committed the random act. Leave the card and they’ll know.
As the testimonials are coming in, Swanander recalled one Church member who saw someone at the Post Office who could not get his car started. “She offered to help him jump the battery, and he insisted on paying her for her time and effort. She said, ‘No, just pass it on.’ She didn’t have a card on her, though — but the act and the message were just as powerful.”
As the momentum builds with the random acts of kindness and the passing-it-forward movement by the Reformed Church members and those they touch, there is a “giving tree” being filled by paper crosses that members fill out, writing how it made them feel when they committed their random act of kindness. “We had a tree that fell during the October snowstorm,” said Swanander. “It has no leaves on it, and we’ve put it up in the Church. We’ve also mailed paper crosses to our membership, where they fill out what the Church means to them vertically, and then what they felt when they passed it forward horizontally.
“It’s a visual aid to kind of put the entire Stewardship project together,” said Swanander. “Soon that bare tree will be filled with paper crosses and words of love and warmth and spirituality.”
Whether you’re a member of the New Paltz Reformed Church or not, it always feels good just to reach out and open a door for someone, smile at a stranger, help someone carry a bag or give that free change away to someone who may need it. Pay it forward! ++