On Monday, an article in the Metro section described an experiment in Thanksgiving generosity recently conducted by the Washington Ethical Society on 16th Street in Washington, D.C. The group surprised 10 randomly selected congregants at a Sunday service in October with new $100 bills. They asked each “winner” to go out and give the money away and “make a difference in a person’s life.” The only small mar on a warm tale of pay-it-forward charity was that one of the 10 had never reported back, a visitor who had not left contact information.
“She was very excited when she left, very eager to do something meaningful” with the money, Mary Herman, one of the Society’s senior leaders had said. “And I believe she will. We’ll hear from her eventually.”
And on Tuesday they did. It turns out that her email describing how she gave the money away was stuck in a spam email filter. Here, then, is how Christine Baer, a student at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center, made a difference with her $100:
Several weeks ago you passed out envelopes with $100 in them and told the receivers to spread love and make a difference. I received one of the envelopes and here is my response.
I live in a house with 12 other college students. We are all interning in DC or MD while taking an urban anthropology class together. Four days before your platform on Contagion, one of my housemates, Ben Wesseler, shared during our class lecture about poverty that he was going to become homeless on Sunday. Ben’s mother was going to be evicted from her home and had nowhere to go and no family to help her. Three years ago his dad killed himself and Ben’s mother has been looking for a job ever since, but it is hard for her to find one because of her age.
Ben, while still in college, has been working every job he can get to help support his mother. The day that I got the $100 was the same day that Ben’s mom became homeless. My university networked to get her a place to sleep and a P.O. Box was set up in order for people to send emergency funds to her. The money WES gave me to spread love and kindness ended up in her P.O. Box. I believe that when someone is going through a time of need the community surrounding them should rise up and respond to the need.
It startled me on that Sunday that the WES community became a part of Ben’s support community through trusting me with a part of the compassion fund. I cannot thank WES enough for that trust.
Thank you so much!
Anyone wishing to contribute can mail contributions to the Wesseler Fund at the Washington Ethical Society, 7750 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20012
Steve Hendrix is a features writer for The Washington Post.