I am a firm believer that the simplest of things create some of the most beautiful results. After our adventure Feb. 23, I am convinced the middle school and high school youth of Forest Grove United Church of Christ (FGUCC) would agree.

As Youth Ministry and Program Coordinator of FGUCC, I like to provide the youth every month with an opportunity to serve the community in some facet. For the month of February, I decided to challenge our youth with a different type of project. I told them that on a Sunday morning, during our Sunday learning time, we would go out into the community of Forest Grove and deliver unexpected surprises to people we would come across. The youth were given the responsibility to brainstorm over the possibilities, and on Feb. 23 we would live out these ideas.

Ten of us gathered during our Sunday learning community time that morning and set out into Forest Grove. We had a stack of cards with kind messages written on them, gift cards to BJ’s Coffee, toys that were donated from our children of the congregation to hand out and $100 that came from their own youth group fund. We decided to hand out these surprises of kindness in the shopping center around Safeway. I could tell the youths were a little skeptical about how this event would actually turn out. I also knew they were going to be even more skeptical of me when they finally realized they would be doing all the talking to the strangers while I would stand in the background, watching it all play out.

Sure enough, as soon as I told them they were on their own, they huddled together and hesitantly walked into BJ’s to drop off the gift cards for unsuspecting customers. Next stop was Safeway, and once again they walked in unsure of the reactions they were about to receive. The first toy was handed out to a little girl, and the smile in return from that little girl was all they needed.

The youths then approached three customers in line and let them know they wanted to buy their groceries. Every reaction was different and precious. One customer let us know her prayers were answered, another thanked the youths for being so thoughtful, and another was so thankful that she gave out hugs in return.

When leaving Safeway, I thanked an employee for allowing the youths to come in and hand out the gifts and buy groceries. Her response was simple and beautiful: “Thank you ... your kids brought a lot of unexpected smiles today.”

On that morning, coffee was given, toys were distributed, groceries were bought, notes with heart-warming messages were placed around town and moments of joy and smiles were the result, because of a few random acts of kindness. This experience gave the youths something I hope every person can experience at one point in their life — that ordinary acts can produce extraordinary results.

There is plenty of hurt in our homes, communities and world; and thinking of a solution for that hurt can be overwhelming. Oftentimes we are in pursuit of the “bigger picture,” when we so often forget that without recognizing and embracing the smaller pieces, we won’t be able to put together that bigger picture.

It is my hope that my young people discovered that things as simple as holding a door open, greeting a stranger with a smile, giving a compliment, handing a child a toy or buying someone their coffee are not random acts to be dismissed. They are acts of kindness that change perspectives, bring unexpected joy, answer prayers and show someone they are loved.

Kristy Haines is the youth ministry and program coordinator of the Forest Grove United Church of Christ.

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