We had a little over $100 in quarters -- money we'd received in a special offering for this purpose at our Beach Worship gathering a couple of weeks ago and then changed into quarters -- and we split up into small groups and just totally went wild, stuffing parking meters, leaving quarters on flat surfaces (window ledges, the edge of parking meters and pay phones), intentionally dropping quarters on the sidewalk as we walked, and giving them away to anyone who asked for change. We also had 200 coupons for free coffee at Coffee By Design, which we gave away, along with a business card-sized card about New Light. After a while we met up again and made a little scene standing on the sidewalk, blowing bubbles... It was our own little version of the Lawrence Welk set, right there on Congress Street.
A few memorable moments...
- First thing, a family pulled up in a car, just as we were getting organized. Someone immediately ran over and stuffed their meter with enough quarters for a full two hours (the maximum). They didn't notice what we were doing, and we were happy to remain inconspicuous. They got out of their car, and the Dad went to the meter with quarters in hand. It was fun watching his puzzled look and then turned and said to his wife, "Hmmm... It already has a full two hours!"
- Without knowing what she was doing, Caitlin, who's a 9th grader, offered a coffee coupon to a guy going into a porn shop. I've never heard Caitlin giggle so hard as when she told me the story later.
- I met up with a guy, down on his luck, who claimed to have a broken arm and said he was on his way to the hospital. He was happy with the coffee coupon I offered, but said, "Do you think you could give me money for a beer?" So I did! Later, the same guy came upon the bubble blowers. He stopped, exclaimed, "I love bubbles! Bubbles are magical!", grabbed a wand out of someone's hand, and proceeded to blow bubbles of his own.
- I stopped and talked for a few minutes with a woman who turned down the coffee coupon, saying she didn't drink coffee, but in the course of conversation, she shared that she was worried about whether she'd be able to have dinner that night. She didn't ask for anything, and was embarrassed to take anything when I offered, but what a joy it was to share $5 with her. Five dollars totally made her day. I don't know that I've ever felt so blessed in spending $5.
- As we were nearing lunchtime, a young guy on crutches came hobbling along and sat down on a bench near the bubble blowers. He started a conversation with the group and all at once he said, "Wait a minute! Are you guys dropping quarters on the ground?" He proceeded to tell us that he'd found $2.50 in quarters that day, which he thought was unbelievably cool. He hung out with us for a while and ended up reading us some of his poetry, and when we invited him to join us for lunch, he gladly accepted. Over lunch, we had a really wonderful conversation, learning that he was new to Portland and new to recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction. When some people began to eat without a blessing, he asked if he could offer one, and he prayed, "Bless this food to our use and us to your service, and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others." We all came away feeling like we had totally been blessed by this guy. We're hoping he'll join us for a New Light gathering soon.
It's unanimous: our first Random Acts of Kindness was a blast, and we have to do it again!