A CAMPAIGN to encourage spontaneous acts of generosity during Lent reached 100,000 people in 172 countries this year: the equivalent of four million acts of kindness, its organisers have estimated.
The campaign 40Acts, which is organised by the Christian charity Stewardship, has been running for eight years (News, 16 February). Email subscribers are prompted to perform a “simple and meaningful” act of generosity on each of the 40 days of Lent.
The four-million figure presumes that each of the 100,000 people to sign up to the challenge this year carried out one act on each of these days. It is a conservative estimate, the social media and campaigns assistant for Stewardship, Kezia Owusu-Yianoma, said.
“It is important to note that this figure does not include those who have signed up representing an entire church, school, or small group,” she went on. “This figure also doesn’t include those who follow the challenge via social media.”
Subscribers were given suggestions of “the kinds of acts we think are achievable”, but there is no concrete way to monitor what people actually do, Ms Owusu-Yianoma said on Tuesday.
Anyone is free to post their acts or experiences on social media, however. “Also, we’re keen on encouraging people to be creative and really make the challenge their own, even if that means remixing their act for the day a little bit.”
Examples this year include, from the smallest acts — taking time to say “Thank you” to a person providing a service, or buying chocolate for a colleague — to the most generous: one woman was inspired to donate a kidney to a stranger.
The woman, who chooses to remain anonymous, explained: “Act 2 was focused on giving anonymously; so I left a generous gift for a work colleague. A few days later, I read Act 5 about giving away something very precious to you, and Act 10, about listening and acting on the ‘prompts’ the Holy Spirit gives us.
“One day, while getting ready for work, I was surprised to hear a prompt from God out of the blue: ‘Give away one of your kidneys.’ That is when the tears came. Shaking, I Googled ‘Kidney donation’ and found a website started by kidney donors.
“There was a special category: altruistic living kidney donation. You give to a stranger anonymously. I have just had a multitude of blood tests, and, in two weeks, have an appointment with a clinical psychologist.”
One of the most prolific acts in eight years of the campaign was the creation of its resources for schools after the second year, Ms Owusu-Yianoma said. “A primary-school teacher who was also taking part in 40Acts got in touch to say that she had adapted the challenge for her class.
“She sent us the resource she had made, and now, each year, we produce resources for schools, youth groups, and small groups. It is always cool to see what happens when our community take the challenge and make it their own.”
Among the contributors to the daily campaign emails this year were the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The project lead for 40Acts, Daniel Jones, said: “To see the momentum grow over the past eight years has been incredible.
“We are so thankful to each of our contributors, to everyone working behind the scenes — and, of course, to our participants, who have taken the concept and adopted it as their own.”