A Texas pastor is redefining what it means to love your neighbor
Rudy Rasmus
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Dr. Rudy Rasmus lives an extraordinary life.

After making the unexpected transition from running a no-tell motel to becoming a minister, Rasmus, along with his wife and co-pastor Juanita, managed to grow the membership of St. John United Methodist Church in downtown Houston from nine to over 9,000.

St. John is the church where Beyoncé discovered her phenomenal vocal talent. In 2008, Pastor Rudy—that's what his congregation calls him—proudly officiated her marriage to Jay-Z.

So, yeah. He's not your typical dude.

Although he is friends with some powerful people, Pastor Rudy's heart lies in serving others, rather than being served. You can hear it in his voice, which is so well-suited for public speaking; his mission is clear: attending to "the least, the last and the lost."

This calling is what sparked the idea for his nonprofit, Bread of Life, which began by serving hot meals to homeless men and women almost 30 years ago after his first service at St. John. Today, 30% of his flock is composed of people who used to be homeless, but aren't anymore.

That is the power of doing good.

Since then, Bread of Life's reach in the community has experienced exponential growth. For those who have access to a vehicle and are in need of basic essentials, they offer a weekly drive-thru distribution line. Volunteers hand out boxes of everyday essentials such as Tide, Pampers, Crest, Secret and Gillette, as well as antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer, to people in need.

"On a typical Wednesday, we see about 600 cars in our line," Pastor Rudy told Upworthy. "Since the pandemic, the line of cars gets longer every week. We are starting to see the first wave of the economic impact of COVID-19 on the middle class."

A line of cars spanned six downtown blocks on the day Upworthy spoke with Pastor Rudy, a stunning spectacle complete with law enforcement to direct traffic. Before our interview, he decided to take a walk to see the line for himself. He wanted to see the faces of the people waiting in their cars.

"The level of visual despair was my most stark observation," he said. "It looked like shock. That's what it looked like. Classic, textbook shock."

This overwhelming need in the community is what makes Pastor Rudy most grateful for his relationship with Matthew:25 Ministries. After Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, Pastor Rudy was introduced to Tim Mettey, CEO of Matthew:25, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization helping more than 20 million people in need each year.

"We have been responding to COVID-19 since it began," Mettey told Upworthy. "We have helped over 700 different organizations throughout the United States; we have shipped 1.4 million pounds of product from our warehouses." Mettey's nonprofit has a partnership with Procter & Gamble, so they already had a lot of high-demand items, such as cleaning and hygiene supplies, on hand and ready to send to the people who needed it the most.

Matthew 25: Ministries

Because of the continued partnerships between P&G, Matthew:25 Ministries, and Bread of Life, the organizations have been able to help a LOT more people—support that is especially impactful during a pandemic.

Additionally, Bread of Life partners with the Houston Food Bank to distribute fresh produce, bottled water, and cleaning supplies to the homes of senior citizens or people sick with COVID-19. However, food banks are taking a massive hit.

"Now, the food banks have one-third of the food and a line that is three times as long... Matthew:25 helps to make up the difference between the two. Because of that partnership, we have been able to multiply what our local supporters are able to offer."

Pastor Rudy voiced concern over what is to come, and hopes Americans are preparing for a long road ahead.

"I would really encourage people to find small ways to help," he told Upworthy. "For instance, if a person is capable of buying two bags of red beans, give one away. You don't have to look that far—in this day and time, we all are agencies. Each of us has an equal responsibility to our neighbor. And my neighbor is whomever is standing right in front of me."

Turn your everyday actions into acts of good every day at P&G Good Everyday.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."