By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — Deacon Bob Glaser of Ss. John & Paul Parish stood on the steps of St. John Church after Mass Aug. 17, joined by an ice water bucket and a crowd of parishioners. Though parishioners assumed it was just another ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the deacon surprised them by coming up with a challenge of his own just moments before the ice water flowed over him — complete 200 acts of kindness in two weeks.
If parishioners collectively achieved the goal, Deacon Glaser said he would fill up the ice bucket and allow parishioners to douse him again. He posted a video of his speech to Facebook to help extend outreach of the challenge.
“Go for it and God bless you,” he encouraged.
The idea had come to Deacon Glaser the night before, when his pastor, Father Marty Goetz, gave a homily about using goodness to combat evil in the world. “I just sensed that what Fr. Marty said in that homily was very true. We had to work on kindness,” Deacon Glaser said.
He asked people to call, email, tell him in person or send him a Facebook message each time they completed a good deed. They didn’t have to specify the deed itself.
Parishioners welcomed the challenge. Chelsea and Josh Stevens of Burlington observed their three young sons contributing acts of kindness during the two-week period. Their eldest son Jayden, 9, used some of his birthday money to help younger brother Gavin, 6, purchase a LEGO train set he could not afford on his own. “It was a proud moment for me as a mom,” Chelsea Stevens said.
As the account of good deeds flooded in, Deacon Glaser realized the goal would be quickly achieved. His wife, LuAnn, decided to join the challenge. If the parish could double the original goal, she’d get doused, too.
After surpassing 400 reported good deeds, Fr. Goetz offered to partake in the ice bath, too, if 600 acts of love and kindness were offered.
Response to the challenge exploded during the final week, and Deacon Glaser began to hear from people all over the country and internationally. “It evolved,” he said. “It became more focused on people telling of the acts of kindness they saw others do.”
On the final morning of the challenge, Deacon Glaser tallied more than 2,500 acts of love and kindness. “It just blew me away,” he said. The actual number of good deeds may have been even higher. Other people told him that they appreciated the challenge, but out of humility did not wish to count their acts of kindness.
Having exceeded the goal more than 10 times over, Deacon Glaser, Luann Glaser and Fr. Goetz received their ice baths one by one after 9:30 a.m. Mass Aug. 31. Just as she was about to be doused, LuAnn Glaser exclaimed “What was I thinking!” even though she was an eager participant. “I realized early on that I wasn’t going to find a cure for cancer, or any of those major kinds of things.” She did, however, believe Mother Teresa’s message that small things can be done with great love. “I think that’s something we can all do.”
Fr. Goetz observed, “We live in a world that needs us to bring Jesus into the world and the smallest thing can do big things in the life of somebody. It was wonderful to hear and see so many acts of kindness and love.”
Deacon Glaser said it was a learning experience for the parish and him. “In my previous life, I was a prosecuting attorney. I focused on what people did wrong. I realized this was an opportunity to focus on the good things people do for each other.”
He encouraged parishioners, family and friends to continue observing and practicing acts of kindness. “It can’t stop here. It has to keep going,” he said.