If you come upon some spare change left on the ground in Nebraska City, Neb., it may not be an accident.
A ministry at First Evangelical, called the Weekly Random Acts of Kindness Coffee Club makes a point each week of coming up with new ways to show kindness to strangers.
“It was essentially inspired by the Holy Spirit and put on my heart to do as part of the family ministry at the church,” says Vanessa Bremer, the club’s founder.
“The church had already participated in a program at Christmas to bring families joy by overwhelming them with gifts and a Pay It Forward Program that would give lucky recipients sums of money to do kindness with,” she says. “I found it interesting that when people would have their number drawn for the Pay It Forward Program, they were often overwhelmed, lost and not confident in how to help others.”
So Vanessa decided to connect those who were interested in helping others with ideas on how to do so.
“I would select a Bible verse and then write a Random Act of Kindness Challenge to follow along with it,” Vanessa says. “The participants initially would pick up their Bible verse/challenge at a local coffee shop and have a week to complete it.”
The challenges included things like making a point to tell someone how important their job is or distributing coins on the ground for children to find.
Vanessa remembers hearing about one day when she challenged people to visit a local McDonald’s and pay for the order of the person behind them in line. The challenge ended up continuing for an hour, she says, “as people continued to be touched by the kindness and would pay it forward.”
Eventually the club became so popular that it moved out of the coffee house and onto Facebook. Now anyone who’s interested can join and get their assignments online.
“We have about 100 people involved with it right now who receive the challenges either through Facebook or through email,” says Leon Schiermeyer who has recently taken over responsibilities as the group’s facilitator.
He says his favorite challenges are the ones that “seem simple but are really effective” like smiling at everyone you meet, saying a prayer for strangers you pass, or writing a note to someone who’s been a mentor to you.
“You don’t know for sure how you’ve touched somebody’s life,” Leon says, “but you trust in God that you have.”