Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Do My Actions Spark?

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works..."
Hebrews 10:24

How often have you heard the phrase, "sparked an outrage"?
Think about it.
We usually hear these three words spoken while listening to the news
and after the reporter tells of some event that has happened that has been unsettling to the people who were affected by it.

We have become desensitized to the phrase, since we so often hear remarks like,
"the teacher's unorthodox behavior has sparked an outrage among parents of students",
or "the across-the-board layoff has sparked an outrage among factory workers",
or "knowledge of the eating establishment's lack of adherence to health and sanitation stipulations has sparked an outrage among local patrons".

Outrages are sparked by behavior that negatively impacts the lives of others.

But, can positive actions spark the opposite of an outrage?
Can a random act of kindness or compassionate behavior also have a ripple effect upon those who are looking on and affected?

Recently, I heard a phrase inside a story that answered this question, really hit a nerve,
and caused me to stop and consider my own actions.

The Travel Channel aired a "Mysteries At The Monument" episode in which they told about the story of a respected preacher named William Danner, who worked with the American Leprosy Mission and traveled around raising awareness of the awful effects of this horrible disease.
It was during his travels in 1913 that he visited the home of the Chapman family in White Cloud, Kansas.
While there, his words deeply affected the Chapman's 10 year old son, Wilbur.
He was so moved with compassion for the lepers that he bought a piglet, named it Pete, raised it, and sold it for $25.00, donating the entire amount to a boy who was suffering from the disease.
Amazing enough, $25.00 was enough money to tend to the needs of a leper for one full year!
A national newspaper ended up publishing a story about Wilbur's act of kindness,
which caused a resulting peak of interest in the American Leprosy Mission.
The Mission began producing hollow cast iron pigs with a slot on top, 
big enough to deposit coins.
The recipients were encouraged to "feed the pig" with coins,
mimicking Wilbur's act of feeding corn to his pig, Pete.
The Mission ended up with donations totaling one million dollars!
The rest is history, as they say.
Banks in the shape of a pig began being produced, and consumers began purchasing them.
Thus, the story of how the "piggy bank" came to be.
A plaque that honors Wilbur Chapman and his pig, Pete, still remains at the Community Christian Church on Main Street in White Cloud, Kansas.

Photo Source

While the announcer was speaking of the plaque and monument at the beginning of the episode, 
the phrase that caught my attention and started the inspiration for this blog post was this....

"Who are the figures depicted in this plaque,
and what cultural craze did they unintentionally spark?"

Unintentionally spark.
This is what hit a nerve with me.

I thought about William Danner and Wilbur Chapman...
and the way compassion moved the boy to reach out and make a difference...
and how this act of compassion sparked the naming of something that probably nearly every one of us have or have had in our homes and/or possession.

William Danner may have felt that his labors for God weren't all that important.
As far as I know, he may have never achieved worldwide fame,
and I doubt if his name is familiar to many of us.

Wilbur Chapman, who listened and heeded the call of compassion, probably didn't do it with the intention of the public ever knowing what he had done.
He may have even seen his action as completely inconsequential,
and I feel sure he never dreamed that we would be talking about him over 100 years later!

But, their faithfulness to God unintentionally sparked a public reaction that still continues to this day.

Do you own, or have you ever owned, a piggy bank?

Thinking about Wilbur Chapman and William Danner caused me to ask myself this question,
"What are my actions unintentionally sparking?"

Does the fire of God's love burn so bright that it automatically sets aflame the heart of another?
Do I, by my actions, point others to the cross or away from it?
Do I live up to my profession of being a disciple of Jesus Christ,
creating a desire in the hearts of others to follow Him, too? 

What might a random act of kindness unintentionally spark in my little world?
Who am I influencing?
Who is following in my footsteps?
Who is watching what I do and how I react to the needs of others?

Just how important are the things we do?
Who can tell or predict what one of our seemingly insignificant actions may "spark"?

In every situation of life, we either leave the scene changed for the better or for the worse.
We can spread cheer or gloom,
encouragement or despair,
happiness or negativity.

How many actions are you and I responsible for on any given day?
Is any one action inconsequential?
In a day's time, how many opportunities are we presented with?
How many times do our paths intersect with the path of others?

A genuine smile when the slow-moving cashier finally begins ringing up our groceries
could spark a desire in her to pick up the pace and strive to be more efficient.
Words of encouragement spoken to the bag boy during our walk to the car
could spark a necessary change of direction in his life.
A compliment spoken to the sad-eyed, single Mom working the McDonald's drive-thru could spark the courage she needs to finally complete that online college application.
An extra few dollars in the envelope of the newsboy could spark a love for generosity.
A thank you card to our child's teacher tucked inside their latest homework assignment could spark a reminder to fill out a long over-due card to the teacher's out-of-state parents.
Kind words added to the obligatory shake of our pastor's hand as we file past him Sunday morning
could spark a renewed passion and fire and start a fresh blaze in his ministry.
Flowers from our garden arranged in a vase for our neglected, elderly neighbor could spark a restoration of her faith in humanity.
Anonymously buying the meal of the police officers seated two booths away from us in the cafe
could spark an onlooker to respect and show appreciation to the local police.
Paying the electric bill of the young family who is struggling to make ends meet
could spark hope in the midst of their desperation and prompt them to help another family.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

Chances are, the actions you and I are accustomed to making every day
were "sparked" by our exposure to the actions of others.
All of us have been influenced, either for the good or the bad,
and all of us are influencing others, either positively or negatively.
Must of it is unintentional, yet, it is happening, nonetheless.
We are "sparking" reactions through our every day actions.

I can still hear the advice my dear, elderly friend, Elanore, spoken over 30 years ago,
as I she and I stood together in her living room, and I tried to repay money she had so kindly lent to me.
“Cheryl, you don’t need to repay me anymore of the money.
 All I ask is that someday, down the line, you help another young girl who needs help.”

I have never and never will forget her words to me.
Her advice immediately sank deep within my soul...deep enough to stay there...permanently.
Her words unintentionally sparked a burning desire in my heart to reach out to others.
Did she have any idea how many times those words would come back to me
in moments of decision while being presented with the needs of another?

Remembering them now, all these years later, makes me want to help the younger generation....
to encourage them, instead of finding fault with their rebellious ways.
To dig beneath the sometimes undesirable, "strange" exterior and facade they have so carefully constructed, and touch their inmost soul with kindness.
To speak gently to them and show them they are important, and their life has value.

What if we all started doing this?
Not only to the younger generation, but to the sadly neglected and too often overlooked older generation, and everyone one else in between?
What if we decided to invest kindness in others?
What returns on our investment would we, and the world around us, receive and witness?
What if we started showing the respect we wish others would show to us?
What if we cut some slack and forgave debt(s) they deserve to have to repay?
Could we "not-so-unintentionally" spark a benevolent, even altruistic, revolution?

I don't know about you, but I think it is definitely worth a try.
The ripples of Wilbur Chapman's random act of kindness are still being seen and felt around the world.
What might our thoughtfulness and generosity to others unintentionally spark?

Is it worth the effort to find out?
I happen to think it most definitely is.
Somehow, I think Wilbur would agree.☺

If video doesn't load, click here.


  1. This is a great post, and oh, so true! There is so little kindness left in this world anymore. It's so sad. I never realized the history of the piggy bank--that's so interesting! And such a great story to share! God does call us all to do something every day to help or benefit someone else. But it's up to us to receive it and obey.

    1. Thanks for your visit and encouragement, Ang. God bless you! :)

  2. What a great post Cheryl and the words are so true. A little act can reap much blessing. This is part of why I knit and crochet for charities. I want people to know that someone took the time to make something, just for them. I'm amazed at the stories I sometimes hear about my gifts when I deliver more to the hospitals, nursing homes and schools. I always tell them to pass on the message that it's one of God's ways of showing He loves them. I have no idea if they do but at least that person has heard it! Just think what this world would be like if every person did one kind thing every day? Thanks for this post Cheryl.

    1. I so admire your giving spirit, Betsy. You will never know, this side of eternity, who all uses the beautiful things you create and how many people are warmed by them and comforted, too. Even if the words are not passed on, the love of God is, in a very tangible way each time they are cold and reach for something you have made for them. Your work is an abundant gift to this world.

  3. Hi Cheryl! It only takes a spark...I really believe that. We might think that we need to set bonfires to get anything going, but just begin! Then let God take it over.
    I had no idea about the history of the piggy bank. Thank you for telling us about it! I see stories on the news all the time about people who complete a simple act of kindness, and it makes the news!! We are in need of humble people making beautiful choices to serve. They are the true inspirers.
    Have a great weekend!

    1. They really are, Ceil. The humble, unsung heroes...maybe they are unsung to this world, but GOD sees each and every random and deliberate act of kindness. So thankful there are still people like that in this world!

  4. Well, I never knew the origin of the piggy bank. And I suspect that has something to do with the name of the pig in Charlotte's Web.

    It's so true; we will have an impact on our world one way or the other, either positively or negatively. Even being luke warm is a choice to not be a positive spark.

    When we consider all the eternal blessings that we have, it's hard to imagine any worthy excuses to not be the influence of our Father that is the positive spark you speak of.

    A good and needed reminder as usual… and glad you passed along more than just that money lent you so long ago.

    1. I never knew the history of it, either, and it is so interesting, isn't it? Oh, it inspired me! I loved what you said about being lukewarm not being a positive spark...this is so true! God bless you for your encouragement, brother.

  5. I never knew that about the piggy bank. What an inspiring story! Your post has been something that I have been thinking about but really not sure how to go about. I mean I know the suggestions you gave are perfect but I guess I want more. Like today, it was such a rough day emotionally because of a weird dream I had, what happened in Charlotte and Tulsa, Ted Cruz endorsing trump, and just feeling tired. I realize that who I need to lean on more in times like these is God. It is the same for reaching out to people leaning more on God allowing Him to work in our hearts. Good post thanks

    1. I am so sorry you had such a rough day, emotionally, Kristina. Oh, my, I can surely relate, my friend. I think the most important thing we can do in times like these is to keep our eyes on JESUS, and, as you said, lean more on God. He is our only hope. Keep encouraged! God is in control, and He is going to see us through to the place where all of this will no longer matter. I don't know why I fail to get your posts in my inbox...I have subscribed, but I am still not getting them. Will visit you today!

  6. Cheryl, you have a way of reaching deep into our hearts with each one of your posts, touching, changing, encouraging, inspiring!! I love how you took the story of the little Wilbur and his pig, and how it changed the lives of countless people, how many only the Lord will know! Just like the little boy who fed 5000 with his little lunch, and who we don't even know his name... sometimes the greatest acts that we do may never be recognized this side of heaven or our names attached to the deed or known, but still, we must heed the voice and call of the Lord to reach out to others in need. Beautiful, beautiful post that I will "munch" on for a while! Praying for all who come here to read and for you and me too... that the Lord will use us to spread His love in special ways. What a sweet story of Eleanor too. Many times the Lord has blessed us through someone who simply said "pass it on" too... and so the gift keeps on giving! Hugs and love to you today my dear friend!

    1. What a wonderful comparison to the little boy who's lunch fed the 5000! I LOVE that! You are right...we may never know. Have you ever heard the song, "Faces", by Greater Vision? That song makes me just bawl each time I hear it. It is so true, and what a joy it will be to one day have Jesus smile and show us all the faces! Love and appreciate you so much, sweet friend!

  7. What a truly wonderful and inspiring post. I love the story about the origination of the piggy bank...that's so awesome! I remember the song..."Pass it On" too. Thank you for this great reminder of a better way to live our lives and to encourage others to do the same! Happy weekend and hugs to you!

    1. Remember Evie? I found a youtube video of her singing that song. Now, we are really telling our age, aren't we? LOL! Thank you for your sweet encouragement and friendship, Debby. God bless you abundantly, my friend!

  8. What a wonderful story about Wilbur Chapman and the origins of piggy banks. Also your great advice about sparking something positive in others. Your Blog is a beacon of light on the Internet. Thank you.

    God bless you and yours.

    1. Your words of encouragement are so appreciated, my friend! Thank you ever so much, and may God bless you richly!

  9. Bravo my friend! Well said! I've not heard that story before. Thank you for sharing it. I try to spread sunshine all over the place. My smile might be the only one the checkout girl or the stranger sees today. My prayer for the trucker who is going over the rumble strip on the side of the road might be the only one that is prayed for him today. Our prayers for our candidates may be the ones that tip the scales to move them to salvation. If we will humble ourselves. If we will pray. If we will turn from our wicked ways.... You know the rest my friend.

    Hugs to you and thanks for the encouragement. You have definitely sent sparks my way during my hard times. I have hope, and you had a part in that.

    Be blessed,

    1. Oh, Laura! Thank you ever so much for your kind words of encouragement today! I am eternally grateful for your friendship and support along this blogging journey! Sending you love and hugs!

  10. Oh my sweet Cheryl, what a beautiful, inspiring, and incredibly thought-provoking post. I loved what you said...
    "Does the fire of God's love burn so bright that it automatically sets aflame the heart of another?
    Do I, by my actions, point others to the cross or away from it?
    Do I live up to my profession of being a disciple of Jesus Christ,
    creating a desire in the hearts of others to follow Him, too?"

    I want to ponder these questions, dear friend, and I want to be reminded of them often. Thank you so much for pouring your heart and soul into your posts. You are such a precious blessing from the Lord.

    Much love to you!

    1. And, thank you ever so much, dear friend, for your precious support, encouragement, and friendship. Your words made my day brighter, and I am sending much love back to you!!!

  11. Lovely post. And a great encouragement to spark the right response in those around us. I'd never heard the story of the piggy bank. And it all started with a very tiny $25. Thanks for sharing with us all.

    1. YES! Isn't that amazing? God uses the small things to multiply and prove His faithfulness. I love the verse about not despising the day of small beginnings. So often we do that. Thank you for your kind visit, Margaret! Your encouragement is SO appreciated! God bless you!

  12. This story is so inspiring that William Danner sharing awareness could spark an interest in Wilber to do something to help. I wonder how often our posts spark an interest in someone who we may never discover until we reach heaven. Our acts of kindness no matter how small will send a ripple effect on others as well. This story has blessed me and I know it will bless others too. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    1. Yes, that ripple effect! We definitely want the ripples to be good and positive and edifying to others. Thank you for your kind encouragement, Hazel. You are a consistent blessing to me!

  13. Very good post, Cheryl! Loved learning the history behind piggy banks! I have one my grandma gave me when I was little. Words of encouragement are so important. Thanks for encouraging us to be that spark of light and truth. This reminds me of what Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

    1. Thank you for visiting and for your sweet encouragement, Bethany! God bless you!

  14. Dearest Cheryl, I had never heard about Wilbur and his pig Pete or the missionary who sparked a light in this little boy's heart to help a leper, let alone the story about the origin of the piggy bank! This is so wonderful! I will never look at a piggy bank the same again. A symbol of saving for my own wishes or desires has now turned into a symbol of sacrificial giving.

    Your humble and gentle way with the words of this post have convicted me in an area I was rebuking myself in just last night. My witness at work has not been what it should be, especially if I complain or act selfishly.

    You have sparked in me to think upon my actions with intention, laying them at the feet of Jesus, to bless and use for His Kingdom, never as a stumbling block.

    Ahh Cheryl, you are always such a blessing!! Knowing you has enriched my spiritual walk immensely.

    Sending much love and deep gratitude,

    1. Oh, dear friend! You are just so precious and dear to my heart. You will never know how much your visits here and kind words of encouragement mean to me. I can only hope God will abundantly bless and reward you in many ways. Sending you much love and many blessings today!

  15. Oh, how WONDERFUL this post is!! I loved everything about it! You write beautifully and I will most definitely be repeating the story of Wilbur. I found you through Imparting Grace’s web site and I’m so glad I did!

    1. Thank you SO much for your precious words of encouragement! I am so thankful you stopped by here, and I am so grateful you will share this amazing story. God bless you abundantly!

    2. Thank you SO much for your precious words of encouragement! I am so thankful you stopped by here, and I am so grateful you will share this amazing story. God bless you abundantly!