03/10/13 — Kindness: 'Just Because'

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Kindness: 'Just Because'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 10, 2013 1:50 AM

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One example a member of The Bridge Church used as a random act of kindness was to put money into a sandwich bag and affix it to a vending machine for the next patron, with a not and "Just Because" card.

Random acts of kindness are popping up all over town, as the result of a tiny business card that captures the concept in two words -- Just Because.

Stories are being shared of residents paying for a struggling friend's groceries, putting change into a sandwich bag and taping it to a vending machine; leaving a gas card affixed to the pump for the next customer; or the couple who struck up a conversation in a restaurant with volunteer firemen, then paid for the men's meal when they had to rush out to respond to an alarm.

The concept might not be new, but it has taken on a resurgence of late, as one local church decided to empower its members to be a "one-man outreach team."

Ferrell Hardison, senior pastor at The Bridge -- one church with two locations, on Berkeley Boulevard and off U.S. 70 near Princeton -- said the idea was actually first introduced in 2006 by Jimmy Bryant, outreach pastor, in response to the negative perception many have of church.

"We felt that the many unchurched of our community right here in Wayne County saw the local church as always asking for something," Hardison said. "I am not saying their perception was accurate. I am simply saying that this seemed to be the mindset of many unchurched people we were talking to.

"I am sure other churches were doing this before we were, but the Just Because card was born as a result of staff discussions about how we could change this undesirable view of the church in our local community."

It was a grassroots effort at first. One Sunday, versions of the cards were distributed throughout the congregation, urging them to do good deeds, then pass along the card.

"The kindness is top priority," Hardison explained. "Leaving the card is secondary."

One side of the card bears the message, "You have just experienced a random act of kindness, Just Because." On the flip side is an invitation to The Bridge along with contact information.

As popularity grew and church owners -- because, Hardison explained, members have privileges but "owners" have responsibilities -- became more creative, in recent weeks "Just Because" days were set aside to blanket the area with kindness.

Reactions have been varied -- from stunned to skeptical, grateful to tearful.

"One lady was a single mom who had just gotten off work from a minimum wage job," he said. "She was exhausted with very little money in her pocket. She later told us that she had said to God a short prayer, 'Please let me just know you are with us.' As she approached the cashier's window at a fast food restaurant to pay for her meager meal, the cashier handed her one of our Just Because cards and said, 'The person in the car in front of you just paid for your meal.' She went on and on in a long letter to our church about the hope she now had because she knew the card was a sign from God that He was still with her.

"Another young lady received a free coffee and muffin through one of our Just Because cards. She was so touched by this small act of generosity. She said, 'I was an atheist and hated anything to do with church. This is making me rethink everything.'"

Who would have thought a simple business card could have such an impact on the lives of people around Wayne County, including Hardison.

"The Bridge will never be the same because of this little card," he said. "Once a person experiences the joy of selflessly serving another person, they are changed forever. This is what Jesus meant when He said that it's better to give than to receive. ...

"As a pastor, this has reminded me that people delight in helping other people. I have been amazed by the enthusiasm this effort has caused among those in our church family. In a time when many are suffering from a weak economy, people still want to be generous to others. Several families in our church could not even afford to purchase something as small as a cup of coffee or a burger, so they just did acts of kindness like cleaning, painting or doing repairs for the elderly."

The ripple effect of the effort is also being felt in other directions, as Hardison said he has heard from about 20 pastors and people from other churches interested in replicating the outreach idea.

"I hope they will," he said. "Imagine how many hurting, bitter, wounded, hopeless people could be touched by the love of God through simple random acts of kindness.

"What if every church in Goldsboro was doing this? This makes tears come to my eyes, because it is not about me or The Bridge -- it is all about connecting people with God."