Inspired by the movie “Pay It Forward” and Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, a California pastor and his wife decided to challenge themselves and others in their church to give without asking for any credit in return.
Their personal mission gave birth to Seeds of Kindness.
“Seeds of Kindness is one of many variations on an idea that combines generosity, assistance, and anonymity—a trio of unlikely partners,” according to the organization’s Web site, SeedsofKindness.com. “Generosity often demands to be noticed. Assistance too frequently has strings attached. And giving through Christian groups is often tied to witnessing or church attendance or some other expectation of those who are recipients.”
About this time two years ago, Pastor Denny Bellesi and his wife, Leesa, decided to give away $10,000 in $100 increments. They called for 100 volunteers from Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif., to step forward and help them.
The only stipulations for the volunteers: “acknowledge that the money was God’s rather than theirs, they were to use it in ways they believed would enlarge God’s kingdom, and they had to report what they had done with the money within 90 days.”
The results were astounding and the idea caught on with churches and communities all across the country.
Seeds of Kindness calls on people to enlist their churches, civic groups and friends to start a “share-the-wealth club.” By donating $5 to $10,000 anyone can get started planting Seeds of Kindness.
Participants can either partner with their church or community groups or donate through the Seeds of Kindness site.
The site provides participants with a message board through which they can communicate with other donors. The “Seeds in Action” part of the site gives firsthand stories about how the Seeds of Kindness program has changed people’s lives.
This account by Tim Chavez of the Tennessean showed how Seeds of Kindness was put into action recently:
“The man did not like to stop in that area of Nashville. But he needed a few items from a grocery store there on his way home from work. As he waited in line last Tuesday to check out, a small voice called to him: “Hi.”
It was a little boy, no more than 5, in line with his mother in front of the man. She had a cart full of the family’s weekly groceries.
The boy—by society’s narcissistic standards—had no reason to speak up and be noticed. His face carried a large scar from a previous surgery to repair deformities. More work still was needed. Yet the boy spoke up and smiled. A conversation ensued, between strangers usually suspicious of one another because of race and class.
Then the man took a chance. He placed his few items on the checkout counter next to the mother’s. He told the cashier, `just put their items on my bill, too.'”
Seeds of Kindness has 10 guidelines for participants:
- Unselfishness. Seed money cannot be used for yourself or anyone in your family.
- Involvement. You can’t just give the money to a church, charity or helping agency. You have to be involved in the process of seeing the money put to use.
- Personal. It must be about making a personal connection.
- Anonymity. Nobody is trying to “get credit” for helping others.
- No payback. You may take nothing in return for what you do. Instead, encourage those you help to help others.
- Creativity. “Think of the money put in your hands as seed money and try to increase the amount of the gift through whatever means you choose,” the site reads. “For example, get others to pool funds and efforts with you so you can multiply your seed money. Purchase supplies to make hats for children with cancer. Buy materials to build a ramp onto a handicapped person’s porch. Buy holidays items to distribute at a nursing home. Opportunities to help other people are everywhere!”
- Understanding. What effect did your gift have on those you helped? On yourself?
- Reporting. Share what you do by e-mailing myreport@SeedsOfKindness.com. “Your anonymity will be respected,” the site read.
- Lasting impact. “We hope your experience will help create a mindset and way of acting that will stay with you throughout your life,” the site reads. “May it become a way of life and not a one-time experiment.”
Seeds of Kindness is a non-sectarian Christian ministry under the supervision of the Family of God at Woodmont Hills in Nashville. Donations are tax deductible.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.