Members of Hilton Head church find joy in performing random acts of kindness

charley@beaufortgazette.comAugust 18, 2012 

Joanne Davis Taylor, a member of the Central Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church of Hilton Head Island, gives Mary Brown Suggs, a fellow member of the church, a potted plant at Life Care Center of Hilton Head. Taylor is one of many from the Central Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church of Hilton Head Island who are practicing Random Acts of Kindness.

DELAYNA EARLEY/STAFF PHOTO

April Ghosten's shift at Beaufort Memorial Hospital had ended, but she knew that one of her patients, an amputee, wanted her hair done before she was released.

The following day, the 48-year-old certified nursing assistant, who lives in Bluffton, returned to work on her day off to wash and braid her patient's hair.

"It was something in my heart I just really wanted to do," said Ghosten, one of more than 20 members of Central Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church's Sunday school class who have been practicing random acts of kindness.

The project began at the Hilton Head Island church during a study of Elijah. The group's teacher, Deacon Michael Bell, challenged them to take note of their random acts and blessings. Each week, Bell asks the class: What did you do? How did the person react? And how did it make you feel?

"When you do kind deeds for others, God has ways to come back and bless you," said Louis Johnson, the church's pastor.

An instant blessing awaited Ghosten and her twin sister, Spring McDade of Bluffton, after a recent lunch. When McDade noticed the waitress was "having one of those days," she thanked the waitress and gave her a hug.

"She said she never got a hug for waiting on anybody," McDade said.

And in return "the waitress gave me a hug," Ghosten said.

The twins were surprised.

"When you are really doing something from your heart, you don't expect anything in return," McDade said.

Acts of love from church members brought Joanne Davis-Taylor, 61, of Bluffton, a retired legal and real estate assistant, to join the congregation three years ago.

Davis-Taylor said members helped her through two deaths in her family. When her mother died, the congregation sang "Everything's Gonna Be All Right" to her. They helped her move, and Lillie Varner, one of the mothers of the church, delivered a big pot of vegetable soup to her when she was too tired to cook.

"Practicing random acts has always been a part of my ministry," said Davis-Taylor, who will give her first sermon in September.

Along with other church members, Davis-Taylor visits area nursing homes. She recently delivered a plant to one member's aunt for her birthday.

"They won my heart, and I knew God had placed us in that church," she added.

Davis-Taylor is being vetted to offer more random acts at Hospice Care of America on Hilton Head and in Port Royal.

Doing random acts of kindness brings joy to Hattie Wilkerson, 68, a recently retired nanny. She said she has always performed small kindnesses for others, but did start to pay more attention to them once her Sunday school class began discussing the topic.

Wilkerson often shares food with her elderly neighbors or those who have small children. She heard about a child who had cancer, so she offered a donation. When she saw a grocery store employee rounding up carts in the heat, she gave him some change to buy a cold drink. She said she especially enjoys giving toys to children and offering rides to anyone in need.

"I do it because that is what God told us to do," Wilkerson said. "He said to love everybody. ... Love your neighbors. And it makes me feel good when I am doing something for somebody, even if it is just a little thing."

The random acts can be as simple as letting someone know you care, said Karon Johnson. When a co-worker returned to work after several weeks, Johnson told her it was good to have her back.

"She said 'Do you really mean that?,' " Johnson said. "It seemed like it uplifted her spirit to know that someone cared and noticed she was not here. It made her feel good and it made me feel good. You never know what you say to someone and how you affect that person."

Each day, retired U.S. Army Major Deacon Irvin Campbell of Hilton Head and his son, Aubree Bruce, practice random acts of kindness, whether by mowing lawns or treating an older deacon to lunch.

"We decided to exercise a random act of kindness, and hopefully people will start to do it subconsciously," Campbell said.

The Sunday school class hopes its efforts will inspire others.

"We believe if you can be kinder and gentler, mayb world would not be in such a bad state," said Bell, who started the project.

"People have become callous to kindness," Bell said. "They have grown so callous to kindness that they don't expect kindness anymore. Being kind to others is what we should be about. That takes us back to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' "

"The world should be all about God, not all about us."

Related content:

Central Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

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