The first gift was a mug, tropical in print, with my name — JENNIFER — boldly printed on the top. I wasn’t the only one to receive a gift that day. Another mug with the name KEVIN arrived. One stating ANDY had been gifted to Andy Lynch not long before.
It was the work of Bill Bartholomew.
Ministry of Smiles
Have you met Bill Bartholomew? If you work at any of the area thrift stores, there’s a chance you have, even if you didn’t know it. Bill has a ministry, and it’s facilitated through kindness and gifts to others. I like to call it Bill’s Ministry of Smiles.
“Putting smiles on other people’s faces adds joy in my life, and so far I have never had a person frown….I give thanks!” Bill said.
Bill creates smiles through the act of a simple gift. He visits thrift stores near and far, in search of personalized items. When he sees a name on a mug, a plaque, or any other item able to be personalized, he asks himself, “Who do I know by that name?” Once God places the person in his mind, Bill goes to work to give the gift of a smile, as well as the tangible gift that person gets to keep.
“It was surprising,” said Andy Lynch, in reaction to the first time Bill gave him the gift of a personalized mug. “We live in a me-first world where people don’t go out of their way to do kind, thoughtful things for strangers. It really meant a lot to me.”
And it meant alot to the very first person to ever receive such a gift from Bill.
“The first cup I gave, was to a lady named Carol at a thrift shop in Wapakoneta. Her smile encouraged me to give out 150 more to other men and women in the last year and a half.” he said.
But mugs aren’t Bill’s only smile maker. Typically if the item is adorned with someone’s name, he asks God to find a person with that name who can become the new owner. For me, that recently meant a wall hanging, something I can mount on a wall in my home or office.
“I thought you might like this item that I found at Goodwill in Kenton. Enjoy it!” Bill said, inside a Christmas card, that accompanied the gift. And what did I do when I saw both the card and the plakard? I did exactly what Bill hoped I would do: I smiled.
A week later, when I looked at the gift a second time, I smiled again, not simply because of the item, but because of the heart behind it. Bill Bartholomew lives his life to bring Christ filled joy to other people. What a special gift. It’s neat to see God in Action in a way like this.
What’s your Ministry of Smiles? Bill achieves it through giving personalized gifts. My daughter strives to give everyone she encounters compliments. Maybe you have the gift of encouragement, and can make a focused effort to encourage others through text messaging, emails, or personal cards.
God truly is in action when one of His children steps up to operate a Ministry of Smiles. Bill Bartholomew has no plans to end his work any time soon.
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