40 acts – half a season of generosity

Logo-2-white-on-redThis post is running a bit late as we hit the halfway mark on the 40 acts challenge back on Thursday, but here’s a quick round up of the last quarter.  Some great challenges here, lots to think and pray about and even more to do!

Day 11: Post-it Postman – a whole bunch of ways to use simple little post-it notes to cheer others up or make them feel appreciated. It could just be a single note to someone special, or a trail for them to follow and be encouraged by.  Or perhaps post-its could be left in more public places (inside a library book, on a locker at the gym) for complete strangers to be blessed by.

Day 12: Kick the bottle – a call to reduce, reuse or recycle some of the vast quantity of plastic we get through each and every day.  Tracking plastic usage is a simple but effective way to get started – it soon mounts up.  Or getting a reusable water bottle or coffee cup.  And there were links to some amazing ideas for creative uses for old plastic bottles.

Day 13: Listen to your generous gut – respond to your gut instinct and do something generous for someone as soon as you feel prompted to do so.  Or go and put yourself in a busy place and pray for some opportunities you can respond to there and then.

Day 14: Mind the gap – get in touch with someone from a different generation today – phone an older person, talk to a youngster, spend some time with someone new. Or how about becoming a mentor to a young person or committing to regular visiting to a care home or similar.

Day 15: Insert verse here – share a favourite Bible verse to encourage someone else.  This could be face to face or via phone or text or or social media, or perhaps write to someone.  Over the longer term, is there anyone you could read the Bible with regularly?

Day 16: Off the hook – disconnect from technology for a day (or at least a few hours) and spend the time reconnecting in real life. Consider reducing the amount of time you spend on your devices on a regular basis.

Day 17: BOGOF – do as it says on the tin and give the extra one away – or share something you have more than one of.  Even better – pay it forward in a coffee shop or similar.

Day 18: Apologise – needs no explanation, just needs to be done.  Think about the best way to do it and the best timing and recognise that the person may not be ready to forgive you just yet.  But it’s still so important to make that first move.

Day 19: In touch – a challenging challenge to connect (write a card or letter) to either a prisoner or a victim of domestic violence – two groups often forgotten in society today.

Day 20: Stranger things could happen – try speaking to a new person today, a complete stranger, or else work at building more of a relationship with someone you see now and again but don’t really know – like a shop assistant or postman etc.

Just as I described in my first quarter summary, I really loved some of these challenges and felt they were just me, while others really were a big challenge.  Talking to strangers is so much a part of my job as a vicar that it seemed quite funny that I didn’t have any opportunities for that on the day of the challenge itself!  And I still haven’t done the post-its (mainly because I did some for my family last year and didn’t want to repeat myself) or the BOGOF challenge.  I really should’ve done the BOGOF challenge first thing that morning though, because I was in a coffee shop and could so easily have bought a coffee for the man standing behind me in a very long queue, but I bottled it and didn’t do so. I just don’t like drawing attention to myself and it was so busy in there that morning.  Now pondering doing it next time I’m in a coffee shop or perhaps buying some of the three-for-two Easter egg deals and giving them away instead.  And perhaps I might put a few anonymous post-its in some public places.

I’ve made a real effort to remember bags for food shopping and I’ve taken my portable coffee cup out with me to cut down on disposable waste.  I loved responding to my gut instinct as it gave me a fantastic opportunity to bless someone and they had no idea why. I shared a Bible verse that seemed to be much appreciated and I apologised after saying something I shouldn’t have done.

I couldn’t switch off my technology the day of the challenge as it was a working day and I had documents to prepare etc.  But I did fast from checking my Facebook and Twitter updates during the day and found I read a bit more of a fascinating book instead.  I’ve since tried to stick to only checking early and late in the day.

The write to a prisoner challenge really got me thinking.  I felt that was something that probably needed to be longer term rather than just a single letter.  But this last week or two, there has been so much media coverage of the detention of asylum seekers in the UK – held in near prisoner conditions with awful stories of abuse and bad treatment.  This is something that I really struggle with – I can’t bear the injustice of it and am longing to be part of helping to bring down this vile system. So I spent some useful time finding out about how to become a visitor to one of these detention centres (I don’t think letters would work, sometimes because of the language barrier, and also the detainees fear factor in making their situation worse), so I hope that will be a longer term outcome to this particular challenge.

So, we’re just over halfway through Lent – I’m still writing my daily thank you notes and this week has been full of really touching thank yous back from some of those who received them.  It’s been such a blessing, I’m so glad I took up that particular challenge.  It will be a good thing to keep doing long after the month of March is over.

Hope Lent is going well for you – it’s still not too late to join us at 40 acts as there are still plenty of generous acts to be done as we keep on living Lent generously.

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