What’s the power of a single hug from a stranger? Does the good deed stay with the recipient all day? Will the recipient in turn perform a good deed for someone else?
That’s what youths at Minnehaha United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., asked each other before setting a goal to complete 15,000 good deeds by 2015.
Their own good deeds counted, as did the good deeds of those who benefited from their efforts and then decided to join them.
Each January, members of the church’s Confirmation group — sixth- through 10th-graders — decide on a project they’d like to work on for the year.
At the beginning of 2014, they unanimously decided on 15,000 good deeds.
"It’s a chain reaction," youth group member Kate Graham said. "If you make one person happy, they will make other people happy. We were more aware of our actions when we were doing the project."
The first good deed by the group, totaling eight to 12 youths, was to give hugs to anyone in the congregation who wanted one after worship one Sunday — people the youths knew well and those they didn’t really know at all.
"We did different things to push us outside of our comfort zones," said Leilani Thompson, coordinator of youth ministries.
A favorite good deed for many of the youths was making sandwiches for the 363 Days Food Program, a local nonprofit that provides sandwiches to the homeless and hungry.
"I really enjoyed making sandwiches, even with my broken arm," said youth group member Calvin Mattson. What he learned from the good deeds project: "Don’t give up."
Other good deeds included packing meals through Feed My Starving Children, washing dishes after a church service, babysitting at church special events, playing games with special-needs students at school during breaks, holding doors open for students at school, and buying coffee for strangers at Starbucks.
Their efforts paid off. They reached the 15,000 mark in early December and decided to keep going. As of early February, they had completed more than 19,400 good deeds.
The youth worked together to figure out how the good deeds would be counted and how to invite others in the church and community to participate. They put a large glass jar in the church narthex, where anyone could report his or her good deeds each month. They communicated to the congregation by kicking off the project with a video introduction, a website, and updates via social media and in worship services throughout the year.
The students chronicled their work in a video and sent it to "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" on ABC.
Even with no budget, the youth figured out how to positively impact their community in a big way.
— from the Minnesota Conference
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