How A Simple Act Of Kindness Inspired A Movement

As I shared in my last post, I’m kind of a coffee addict.

Some people (MaryBeth Fortner) would say I’m also an Internet-smartphone-Apple-Facebook-Twitter-LinkedIn addict.  I like to say I’m an “admirer and eager user of technology.”  But that’s me.

Well, one day last year my eagerness led me to a website called I Like Giving.

In the creator’s words it’s “…a campaign to inspire generous living. It is a collection of stories from around the world about people who have done the unexpected without expecting anything in return.”

Many of the stories are told through videos that are incredibly moving and beautifully produced.

One my favorites is called, in all its irony,  “I Like iPad.”  It tells the story of Frances, a young woman, who gives up something she needs, or thought she needed, to her cousin who has autism.

Frances first learned about her cousin’s condition from her grandmother who said her cousin was struggling to put words together and communicate at an age he should have been able to.

Holding out hope that perhaps he was just a slow learner, time went by.  After close to two years, it was clear her cousin was autistic.

Not knowing what the future held for him but knowing the importance of communication, she started researching.

She came upon an article about a school that was using iPads and specific apps to help kids with autism communicate.

From that point forward, Frances said every time she used her own iPad, she thought about her cousin.  So, one day she drove to the post office, boxed it up, and sent it to him.

After word got around, people began donating iPads to Frances to give to other children with autism.

She said as the story got told it wasn’t about her giving something, rather it was about the kids receiving it and it caused this movement of overflowing generosity.

In Frances’ words, “It’s what I was supposed to be doing.”

Giving.

That was what Frances said she was supposed to be doing.  Not for accolades, praise or prizes.  Just giving to someone who needed something more than she did.  This is the type of giving Jesus says we all should practice.

1 “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give it to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

Yes, Frances made it happen. You can watch her do so here.

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How You Can Make It Happen Like The Widows

I have a confession to make.  I’m an addict.  A coffee addict.

I’m also kind of a coffee snob.  I mean if it was up to me my church would serve freshly ground, dark roast, Arabica bean coffee in a French press after service every Sunday.

Well, about a year ago and a half ago, my love for coffee led me to the website of an organization called Three Avocados, a nonprofit coffee company in Missouri.

I began reading about it, and the more I read the more excited I became.  You see, this is no ordinary coffee company as you may suspect from its name – Three Avocados.

The thing is their name has nothing to do with coffee.  But it has everything to do with Three Avocados’ purpose, which is to provide clean drinking water to people in Uganda.

How it all began

The story of Three Avocados begins in the humble village of Bulopa, Uganda.  Bulopa, like many other village there, is very remote and extremely poor.

There is a small church there that amounts to nothing more than a few sticks in the ground and some benches.  A group of people on a mission trip had been invited to worship with the people of Bulopa.

As the offering basket was passed around, a poor widow placed three avocados in the basket. It was literally all the food she had.

You see, in Uganda, the pastors don’t receive any pay. The food they eat is given through the offering as they visit different villages. That widow had given all she had to ensure someone else could eat. Talk about faith.

The widow’s offering

It was that simple gift that inspired the visitors. They left Uganda brainstorming ways to ensure the poor throughout the world are cared for and are never forgotten.  And thus Three Avocados was born.

The widow gave all she had.  Sound familiar perhaps?

If you’ve read the story of the widow’s offering in the gospel of Mark, it should.

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.

42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small cooper coins, a worth only a fraction of a penny. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.

44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

Yes, the widow made it happen.

Question: How are you making it happen?

I’m thankful for homeless people

Our God is so very mysterious.

Recently my wife told me about some hateful things people wrote on a neighborhood online forum about homeless people living nearby.  In short, the commenters view the homeless as something to get rid of.  They might as well have been complaining about a pile of trash up wind from their homes.

MaryBeth and I walk nearly every day.  Most days we pass a homeless women who is either singing, sleeping, reading or just sitting quietly.  This past Saturday morning we saw her sleeping in a covered bus stop to keep a heavy wind off of her.  She was completely covered by a blue blanket, and as usual, she was flanked by all of her belongings.  The bus stop is directly in front of our neighborhood Farmers’ Market, which, as always, was buzzing.  It was the intersection of completely different worlds.

A cousin in-law I very much hope to meet one day asked on Facebook recently, “What do you do when you see a homeless person?”

I commented.  “Not enough,” I said.

I don’t want to ever answer that question that way again.

I believe God uses each and every one of us to advance the kingdom.  He places us where He needs us.  He only gives us what He knows we can handle.  He brings people in and out of our lives.  And He gave us a book of teachings, principles and examples to live by.

This book and His son tell me this.

1.  Do not persecute, judge and ridicule those less fortunate, regardless of the circumstances.  Instead, help them.  Jesus did not caveat this command with “…if you think they’re worthy.”

2. Stop walking by and try doing something helpful with your wealth.  Exemplify the Bible.  Helping is not a spectator sport.

3. If you don’t like the way you have to truthfully answer a question, change your behavior so you can answer it in a way you’re proud of.

On this day before Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the homeless.  This may sound harsh to you, and to be clear, I absolutely wish and pray not a single person was homeless.  But I’m thankful for the homeless because they illuminate one of the many areas in life where I’m failing God, failing them and failing you.  I’m thankful for every person God brings into my life, regardless of status, regardless of where they sleep.

Today, I’m thankful for the woman under the blue blanket.  In the near future, I pray that if someone asks me her name.  I won’t have to say, “I don’t know.”

I’m tired of being a spectator.  I’m tired of just walking by.  How about you?

Mark and the farmer

The farmer’s market was probably the busiest Mark had seen it all summer.  As he stood there in line, waiting to pay for the ten tomatoes he had carefully selected from the bunch, the owner of the stand approached him.

Gene was in his late sixties and dressed in worn, light-denim overalls and a large straw hat that had seen better days. His skin was tanned and weathered from years of farming in the sun.

“Back for more toms I see!  What do you plan to make with those this time?” Gene asked with a big smile.

“I’m not sure yet,” Mark, a wealthy local banker replied, “but probably a sauce of some sort.  We may just cut some up and eat them by themselves.”

“That sounds really nice,” Gene said, sitting a crate of cucumbers on the table, “even for those leftovers.”

Mark’s eyes widened a bit.  “What do you mean leftovers?  These are perfect.  It took me quite a while to pick through them all to find the best ones you have.”

Gene let out a small laugh, looked up at Mark, and pointed at the wooden sign hanging behind him.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9

“What you buy here isn’t the best I’m afraid,” Gene said.  “We give those away.”

Mark stared at him with a stunned expression. “So, how much are we talking about here?  Fifty? One-hundred tomatoes?”

“Oh, goodness no!” Gene quickly replied.  “I’d say more like a thousand.”

“One-thousand?” Mark burst out.  “Why in the…?  Do you give that much away from everything you grow?”

“We sure do.  Been doing it for going on 40 years now.  We don’t miss it really.  And it sure does help a lot of people.”

Mark stood there calculating, shaking his head.  “I just don’t see how you could possibly stay in business when you give away so much of your product.”

“I don’t know for sure,” Gene said.  “You’d have to ask the Boss.  I just work here.”

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How are you using your job or business to help others? 

Does your business produce more product, provide extra services or donate money because it’s the right thing to do?