“This is for you, Paulo”

In my last post, I wrote about a book that my youth group is studying this summer called “I Like Giving.”  In keeping with the theme of generosity and creative (not random, because they’re intentional!) acts of kindness, yesterday some of my students and I spent the afternoon giving to others.

First, we paid for the person behind us in line at Subway.  Then we purchased a $5 Starbucks card for each of them to decide how they wanted to give it away.  Our next stop was Walgreens, to develop a happy selfie of all us to tape to a church member’s door (captioned: “We’re all excited because we think you’re awesome!”).

As we stood in Walgreens waiting for the picture to be printed, one of the girls decided that the young man working behind the photo counter needed a Starbucks card.  She felt a little awkward and wasn’t sure how to go about it, so I told her to glance at his nametag.  “His name is Paulo!” she stage-whispered to me, grinning.  So I told her to write his name on the card so that he knew we didn’t leave it by mistake.  She borrowed a pen and carefully wrote on the little brown envelope, “This is for you, Paulo!”  And then she added a smiley face.

“Do I just…hand it to him?” she asked.  Trying not to be obvious, I shushed her and responded quietly, “No, just wait until we’re walking out and leave it on the counter.”

Paulo handed us the printed selfie, and I paid for it, and as we turned to walk away, I nudged my youth group girl to let her know that it was time.  Paulo picked up the gift card as we were walking out, and he shouted to us, “I love Starbucks!!” We turned around, and his ear-to-ear grin was worth far more than $5.

I think all of my youth group kids thought so, too.

Once we got back to the church building, we talked about how it had felt to give, and then I asked them to remember a time when someone gave to them and write a note to that person.  One girl mentioned an elderly woman at church who sends birthday cards to everyone.  One of the guys talked about a time when someone took him out to dinner.  And some of them — well, I didn’t know what they wrote in their notes until later.

Because perhaps my favorite moment of the day — when all was said and done and students were dropped off and I was back in the office sorting papers — was when one of the other ministers stopped by my office door.

“It’s crazy what sticks in a person’s mind,” he said.  “Did you read the note Juan left me?”

I shook my head no.

“Well,” he continued, “he thanked me for taking him home when his mom was sick.  I don’t even remember that.  Must’ve been when she had surgery two years ago.”  He shook his head.  “Sometimes you wonder if what you do makes any difference…”

A small act of kindness goes a long way.  I think about the times people have given to me without knowing how much it meant or how it shaped my life, and I think it does make a difference.  More than we know.

And I think that what my student wrote on that Starbucks card is a concise reminder of the attitude with which we should give.  It’s not about us or any attention or praise that might result.  It’s a simple way to say that they are worth noticing, that they are worth our time and money and emotional investment.

“This is for you.”

It’s a way to let someone know that your gift is not a ‘random’ act of kindness, that it’s not an accident. That they’re not an accident.

“This is for you.”

Keep your eyes open today to see how you can make a difference for someone — how your life can be a gift that is intentionally, uniquely, just for them.

Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 10:34 am  Comments (2)  
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why I do what I do

“Babe! I am so thankful that I had you as a counselor this week. You really taught us how to trust each other and work as a team. I loved how you pushed us past our limits this week and you didn’t let our fears get the better of us. You always had faith in us, so thank you for that.”

“Dear Babe, thank you so much for everything this week. I have grown so much because of you. The trust in our cabin was absolutely unreal. I didn’t even honestly know that a group of girls and a counselor could be so close after a week! I just have to thank God for that and everything else He did for me this week. Now I can leave camp changed and ready to live out my faith more than I ever have. I am so thankful for your example and how you trust us with secrets and everything. Telling us to trust each other is just not the same thing as showing us how to trust, and that is what you did. You are an amazing person and I see Jesus in you without a doubt.”

“Dear Babe, having you as my counselor has been such a blessing. I’ve never had someone believe in me as much as you have this past week. Having all that support from you and all the other girls boosted my self-confidence so much.”

“Babe, thank you so much for helping me grow in my faith this week. Everything you said this week led up to my one big moment. I want to thank you for helping me get to that moment because I couldn’t have done it alone.”

“Dear Babe, I am so wonderfully blessed to have had you as my group leader this week. I know that God made sure He put me with someone who understands what I’ve been through and what I’m going through. Your love and support have meant the world to me. I am now fully placing all my problems with the Lord and I trust that He has the answers and will lead me through the minefield of life. ”

“Babe, I cannot even begin to thank you enough for such a memorable week. I have truly made relationships that I will never forget. I can see the love of God in your eyes, and that’s incredible. Your stories of how God has influenced your life has me excited to see what He does with me and all your other Navy Babies.”


When I tell people that I’m going into youth ministry to work with jr. and sr. high, I often get a response of, “Wow, you’re brave.” And they shake their heads as if they feel sorry for me. When people found out I would be working at Deer Run this summer, it was the same reaction. “Ten weeks? Working with kids in the summer heat? How much are you making?” I would answer, “Not much.” But the truth is, although the dollar sign is minimal, I’ve “made” far more than they. I’ve made friends. I’ve made memories. I’ve made myself a stronger person. And, most amazing of all, I’ve made disciples.

Yes, I’ve been exhausted and completely spent both physically and emotionally. Yes, there have been struggles and those kids that drive you crazy. Yes, it’s difficult. But the payoff is far greater than the investment.

I do what I do because of the pride on a kid’s face when they conquer their fear on the Leap of Faith. Because of the laughter and the inside jokes. Because of the way it feels when they trustingly slip their hand into mine. Because of the look in their eyes when something clicks. Because of the hands raised in worship. Because of the confidence they build. I do what I do because of those deep late-night conversations that end with a teen deciding to give her life to Christ. I do what I do because there is no greater feeling than laughing and crying and watching one of my girls be baptized. I do what I do because of what my girls wrote in those notes.

And mostly…I do what I do because Christ loved me first. How can I not share the incredible joy I’ve found in Him?!

Published in: on August 5, 2012 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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