As we did last Saturday morning, a group of us from Saint Matthew Lutheran Church hit the streets to give away free bottled water to motorists stopped at a heavily-trafficked intersection here in Logan, Ohio.
It was another of our congregation's Kindness Outreaches in which we share God's love, no strings attached.
Unlike last Saturday when we split into several groups, we all went to a single prominent Y-intersection today, with folks stationed at three different corners.
This morning, we gave away 210 bottles of water in about eighty minutes. Last Saturday, we gave away the same amount of water in seventy minutes.
But overall, we all seemed to have more personal interaction with folks than most of us had last Saturday at other intersections. That's something I love! The reason for this may be that the lights last longer where Zanesville Avenue, Hunter Street, and Culver Street meet here in Logan. Longer lights allow for the possibility for more good-humored interaction.
They also allow for the development of what I refer to as "positive peer pressure." If people in the first vehicle stopped at a red light say, "Yes" to receiving our free gifts, then those in vehicles in line behind them are more likely to follow suit. By the same token, if the folks in the first vehicle refuse our gifts, then those who follow in line are more likely to turn us down as well.
Of course, it helps to pray. Today, at the corner where I was working, we went through about four red-light cycles during which not a single passenger or driver was willing to accept a free bottle of water. So, I prayed out loud for God to bring us positive peer pressure at the next red light. And what do you know? The occupants in every vehicle stopped at the next red light accepted our gifts meant to show them that God's love is free and available to all willing to receive it. (The fact that happened after I prayed was not a coincidence, by the way. It was a God-incidence!)
As always happens when churches give away free items to strangers, we got questions from people about why were doing this today. Kindness Outreaches refute the common stereotype of churches as only being interested in getting people's money. But we refuse any offers of money! God's love is a free gift and we believe that God has given us all His gifts so that we can share them with others.
But Kindness Outreaches can perplex people.
Today, for example, one woman who looked to be in her late fifties, tilted her head from her perch behind the steering wheel of a minivan and asked me, "Why is it free?" "We're just trying to share God's love, no strings attached," I told her. She took the water.
Another woman pulled out her purse to make a donation. But Joy, from Saint Matthew, told her with a chuckle, "No, I can't take your money. I'll get fired."
A man on a motorcycle with a female passenger onboard stopped for the red light at Zanesville Avenue on west-bound Route 93. We said that the passenger could have a bottle of water. But we told him that we didn't want him "drinking and driving." Both laughed and thanked us, waving as they roared away.
One woman seemed absolutely overwhelmed that anybody would give her and the four other people in the car in which she was the "shotgun" passenger bottles of water for each. She thanked us profusely, a big smile on her face.
Each bottle of water is shared with a business-style card that tells the recipient: "You looked too thirsty to pass up!" with an explanation of why a group of Christians in love with Jesus would be doing such a crazy act of kindness. On the back, there's a little information on Saint Matthew along with an invitation for the recipient to let us know if there are any other ways in which we can serve them.
Eight Saint Matthew folks helped today. We had thirteen show up last Saturday. And everyone of them had fun! Thanks to every one of them!
Kindness Outreaches are the brainchild of my friend, Steve Sjogren. His book, Conspiracy of Kindness, absolutely changed my life when it was first published back in 1993. The people of the congregation I formerly served as pastor, Friendship Lutheran Church in Amelia, Ohio, began doing outreaches shortly after I first read Steve's book and later, conducted them every Saturday for five years, "committing" 15,861 acts of Christian kindness in that period.*
I'm excited that Saint Matthew has now joined the conspiracy of kindness for Jesus Christ!
[To see the simple preparations necessary to do a Kindness Outreach, go here, where you'll find two short videos I did last Friday night.]
*Several years after reading Steve's book, I got an email from him; a mutual acquaintance had told him about me. We became fast friends and have remained so since. And so, I have been doubly blessed: first by Steve's book and work and second by his personal friendship. He's one of the nicest people you will ever meet!