Earning our degree in kindness.
We all learn things a little differently. Some things, like how to calculate the square root of 49 and the history of World War II, are probably best learned from books, while other lessons, like kindness and compassion, are learned best through experience.
In 2011, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, launched the INC Giving Project, welcoming each of us into a classroom for an education on kindness, the kind that doesn’t just feel good for the day, but the kindness that gives honor and glory to the Almighty God. Our first assignment — Teacher Appreciation Day.
Before this project, many of us never really considered that our teachers got tired. To be honest, I never really did. They always just seemed so peppy and excited to teach whenever they stood in front of the class.
But when the stories and messages from teachers who attended the first INC Giving Teacher Appreciation Day began to pour in, we got a glimpse of what it was like to be a teacher. The project was giving us the opportunity to make a difference. As we heard from Mrs. Perakis, a teacher from Maryland:
Mrs. Margaret Perakis was a kindergarten teacher invited by a 6-year old Alex Larkin, a student in her class and a member of the Church Of Christ. The INC Giving Project was still new at that point, launched by the Executive Minister just months before.
But this special day to honor teachers couldn’t have come at a better time. At the end of another school year, Margaret Perakis was exhausted.
Nowadays, we often hear about teachers needing help. But usually, it’s in terms of school supplies or salary bumps. And while those things are important, even necessary, our experience that year showed us teachers need something more than a box of pencils. They need something we all had the ability to provide.
“I will keep this video and watch it when I come back from work and feel tired and unappreciated. I will watch it when I feel like giving up, this will give me the strength to know that someone, somewhere appreciates me and my hard work.”
This strength has allowed Mrs. Petrakis to continue to teach today, years after that Teacher Appreciation Day. “I remember this day like it was yesterday. I truly am blessed to have connected with you and I love you more. Thank you very much for everything.”
Seven years later, INCGiving’s Teacher Appreciation Days continue to honor educators all over the world, including teachers from Rome, Italy, where only 16% of the population say they respect their teachers.
“Sincerely a great honor because knowing that our role as a teacher is still recognized and respected gives me this great emotion.” – Simona Pisano, Teacher, Rome Italy
And for Alex, who is now in middle school, learning about kindness at such a young age has given her the confidence that she can make a difference.
“INC Giving projects taught me that you can give people small things (sing to them, clean up their parks), but their reactions to your little contributions can really change the experience.
Brother Eduardo, congratulations on serving 10 years as our beloved Executive Minister. Thank you for all your hard work and care for the Church. We love you!”
Doing good whenever you possibly can
Teacher Appreciation Day is just one part of the INC Giving Project.
Activities like Police Appreciation days, book drives, and Singing For A Cause were all inspired by the same biblical verse — “Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it,” Proverbs 3:27 (GNT).
A fitting verse considering Brother Eduardo gives us an example of how to follow this verse — in the way he leads the Church, the various projects he has launched, as well as the countless acts of kindness he shows members of the Church Of Christ, some of which have been featured on Blessed Moments, and many more stories that may be known only to the recipients themselves.
And now through the INC Giving Project, he gifted us with opportunities to give honor to God by living by the standards set by the verse.
Inspiring kindness in others
Augustin “Jon Jon” Figer, a registered nurse from Las Vegas, hadn’t really volunteered in the community before he joined a team of medical professionals volunteering to offer free health check-ups during a Neighborhood Appreciation Day, another event of the INC Giving Project.
“This project helped me realize that I am blessed in so many different ways and if I can share even just a little bit of those blessings, maybe I can make a difference.”
As a result, Jon Jon was inspired to do his own type of giving project by sponsoring a sneaker giveaway for teens who were doing well in school or doing something for their community.
“The INC Giving Project makes me realize, daily, how blessed we are in this life, and that sharing these blessings not only helps others but actually makes me feel good.”
Now a new dad, Jon Jon is looking forward to sharing the lessons with his son. “I plan to take him alongside me whenever we, as a family, do an INC Giving project and try to teach him that, as busy as both parents are (we are both nurses, choir members, Buklod [organization for married couples] and Light of Salvation [LOS] officers), we still find time to help those who are deserving and who are in need.”
Jon Jon’s message of thanks says it all,
“Brother Eduardo, Thank you for opening my eyes and letting me see that blessings could and should be shared.”
They say 42% of Americans look for volunteer opportunities in a church, so when Osmond Sprout learned about the volunteer efforts of the Church Of Christ, he made sure to jump in.
“The Church’s commitment to the community told me that the Church cares about everyone, not only just members! I’ve been to different churches before, but I have never seen any of those churches give back to the community like the Church Of Christ!”
Osmond became a member of the Church Of Christ in Bronx, New York in 2016.
“Other people see the Church as a Filipino church or Chinese church, but the Church welcomes everyone, so when other people see that I’m from a different ethnic background, other people would understand it’s not just a Filipino Church and I want to share what the Church is about!”
Today, Osmond is still one of the first ones you’ll see during community events held in the New York area.
“I love volunteering. We all should help one another. It makes me feel like I know I can do better caring for other people. My favorite INC Giving community service was the clothing drive, it’s not getting any easier, not everyone can afford it, especially winter clothes. So when the Church held the winter clothing drive, it was unbelievable to see how many people came because they were in need!
“To Brother Eduardo, Thank you very much. Happy 10th anniversary, and may God continue to bless you with many more to come!”
More opportunities to practice intentional kindness
In the eight-plus years since the INC Giving Project was launched, we’ve seen volunteers put on their INC Giving shirts and help build homes for Habitat for Humanity, reach out to flood victims in Louisiana and Texas, send messages of hope to students after the Parkland shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, recognize immigrant teachers in Las Vegas, build a library in Pohnpei, Micronesia, and much more.
We’ve also been given the opportunity to be part of large-scale outreach projects through the Aid To Humanity events, held in some of the poorest neighborhoods around the world, as well as be part of the Church’s immediate response to help communities devastated by natural disasters.
The lessons about the kindness we’ve learned.
It’s hard to quantify just how much the INC Giving Project has taught us. And thanks to the INC Giving Show, which debuted just months after the project was launched, we’ve gotten a front-row seat to stories and lessons from all over the world, further supplementing our education. Here are just a handful of the lessons we’ve learned so far:
1. You don’t have to be an adult/rich/powerful/or famous to soften the hearts of the toughest members of our community.
“I’ve never had anything like this happen before — to have, especially young people, the children involved, in thanking us and it’s really, really heartwarming. And I know it made it easier for the officers who were present to go out and do their job for the rest of today, for sure.” – Troy Cooper, Chief of Police – Saskatoon Police Department
2. All you need is a couple of hours to help a city or community look forward to a better future.
“We couldn’t do this without volunteers, and that’s why groups like yourselves are just so important because otherwise, this wouldn’t be happening without you. It’s super inspiring, you’re the largest volunteer group we’ve had yet with Project Green Space.” – Stephen Stolte, Sustainability Coordinator, City of Daly City, California
3. Working together for the same goal can bring communities and strangers together for the good.
“We (Jimi Cruz and I) met through my colleagues. Through the last couple of years, he’s been instrumental in helping and generating hope for the people. I really wanted to say thank you to all the organizers and volunteers: this will go along way and we know that there are people that love us, that doesn’t judge us and that just want to help us get back up on our feet, so thank you.” –Judy Klassen, Member of Legislative Assembly, Winnipeg
4. Kindness is powerful and can empower others to try again.
“We had different churches that help us, we’re so grateful. But I have to say the Church Of Christ, this particular church, when you guys came in the first time, it was phenomenal. So this kind of experience kind of shows them that, you guys come in with so much love. That really empowers them, and they felt really connected again.” – Michael Cornelius, River Haven (transitional living facility), Oxnard, California
5. We all have the opportunity to reach out and break down barriers.
“Any time people come together and talk and commune and fellowship it helps break down barriers. I think it’s great. Churches need to do a lot of outreach and try to get involved in communities. Thank you for opening your doors and showing your beautiful new church.” – Myles, Resident of Mountain View, California
So thank you, Brother Eduardo, thank you for giving us an opportunity to earn a degree in kindness. And for always giving us an example of what type of kindness gives honor to God.