Last Fall we had an idea: pick a day when students might need a little boost and set up on Greene Street handing out free donuts. It would be a simple gesture, but also a great way of showering a little love on a lot of students. And then the day came and… mostly students weren’t interested in a free donut. Person after person just kept walking by. “I think the implication is that churches want something from you in return, and nothing is just given with grace,” said Claire Dixon, President of Gamecock Lutheran.
Once we asked around a bit, this theory seemed to hold true. Students have encountered lots of Christian organizations that say they have something free for you, only to try to rope you into something later. They actually want your contact info, or want to convince you to come to their meetings, or want to tell you if they think you’re going to hell. “And so when we realized this, the idea became even more important to us,” said Rev. Jesse Canniff-Kuhn, campus pastor at Gamecock Lutheran. “We wanted to really show that we believe in free grace. That we really do just want to do an act of kindness and aren’t hoping to get anything out of it for ourselves. And we want that to be a little glimpse of how God’s love works: it’s freely poured out for everyone, without any ulterior motive or strings attached.”
But we realized we were going to need to be more organized. This couldn’t be a one-time thing; we needed to consistently engage so that we can build a pattern of trustworthiness. And of course, giving out free donuts actually does have a cost to it. And so we applied for a Faith In Action Grant from the SC Synod to sponsor a few days of “Grace Donuts” as we work to embody a non-manipulative, earnestly loving Christian community on campus.
Our first day of Grace Donuts this semester took place during mid-terms before Spring Break, and it was still a little slow going. “I was surprised so many people just smiled and said thank you and didn’t take one,” said Freshman Student Leader Brooke Youngman. “But exchanging a smile is still something good, too.” And yet, after a few hours, nearly all the donuts were gone. “It’s a start,” said Pastor Canniff-Kuhn. “These people walk by our building every single day, but mostly don’t know anything about us. Today is just one day, but we believe that if we stick to this, students will start to believe that there’s no ‘gotcha’ here. We really are just trying to help you get through the week, and remind you that you’re precious and God loves you.”