An anonymous donor has given away $10,000 of her own money to the members of Severna Park United Methodist Church in Maryland. The gift was divided up into $100 dollar bills so each congregant could put it towards the good of their community, spending their dollars wisely on various charitable causes.
While lots of cash isn’t necessary in order to be charitable to others, the exercise served as a positive reminder for many and helped them refocus their gaze on those in need.
Some purchased socks for cancer patients, gifts for homeless children or just blessed cash-strapped strangers, Severna Park leader Rev. Ron Foster told The Washington Post.
“Listen to where the Holy Spirit’s leading you,” he told his congregants before handing his congregants the cash. “Listen to the need that’s around you, that you find in the community. You may be in the right place at the right time to help somebody because you have this in your hand.”
“What is our sign language? If we couldn’t use words, what signs would we have to tell God’s story?”
The donor, who did not wish to be named, explained how acts of generosity helped her overcome a period of depression. She said she started to feel very hopeless after the death of Heather Heyer, who was run over by a white supremacist during the horrific race riots in Charlottesville.
“I just had that heavy weight on my chest. I just felt bummed out and sad about our situation, about humanity in general,” the donor explained.
So, she started small. Despite having coffee at home, the woman decided to head to her local Starbucks, pick up a gift card, and give it to the cashier.
“I want you to use this for everybody who comes in after me, until it’s gone. I want you to treat everybody to a cup of coffee,” the donor told the barista. A simple act of generosity that shifted something in this generous woman’s thinking.
“My mood completely changed,” she said. “It was that excitement, of being able to share with other people.”
So, why did she gift such a large sum to her new church? Simply put: because it is an absolute blast.
“I wanted to make it about the fun,” she said. “We want to make it about the excitement and the joy of giving, and to give people the experience of giving.”
The impact of her financial gift has stretched far and wide.
“People have been so thoughtful. The money has just multiplied and blossomed and gone out,” Rev. Foster said of the results. “There’s been so much joy and excitement just spilling over.”
Many of the church members have recalled their personal stories of generosity since receiving the money.
“What was the coolest to me was how I was on ‘high alert’ all week, looking for people or opportunities to help. That was a great lesson, I think we should always be in that mode, always on the lookout for who God may place in our path, and for things He calls us to do,” one person wrote on the church’s blog.
“I am going to strive to be in that spirit more and more, to have eyes to see people’s needs more routinely, and to help in any way I can.”
Another parishioner remembered back to when he was having dinner in Baltimore and recalled a sizable group of homeless people hanging out front the St. Vincent de Paul Church, as reported by Baltimore-Washington Conference:
“God seemed to say why not get some pizza for everyone and sit on the church steps and have a meal with these folks.” He didn’t act then. “But,” he wrote, “when my feet started moving me to the altar to pick up the envelope, I surrendered to God’s nudge.”
The man pitched in $100 of his own money, and ordered a massive round of pizzas for all the homeless folk. “I knew then, as I know now, that I gained more than we gave that night,” the man wrote. “$100 turned into $200 and then transformed into ripples of God’s love in this sometimes troubled world.”
As they began to open their eyes to the need around them, many realized that they were overwhelmed with opportunities to give. “It was surprising to me that I tried to make giving more difficult than it should have been,” said one person. “It made me realize that the need is everywhere and giving should be without hesitation or overthinking the act.”
One member of the church youth detailed his experience on their website:
“Going to the Longest Night Vigil was a great experience, and it really opened my eyes to the situation of homeless people in Annapolis and our county. It’s made me determined to help people I see on the street when I can, and to not be afraid. I am very glad I was able to donate to the Arundel House of Hope, as it’s going to a cause I really believe in. It felt really good to make the leader of the Winter Relief program so happy.”
“The $100 was given to a family in Elkridge who lost everything in a house fire. The daughter is a student at Thomas Viaduct Middle School in Howard County where my wife works and heard about this family. She talked with the guidance counselor and arranged for the principal to give the money directly to the student’s father.”
You can read more of the stories here.