Ash Wednesday, 2002. Eric Henry, a senior at Marian High School, was thinking about what his Lenten resolution should be. His mother, Mary Molnar, recalls the conversation vividly; “I was sitting on Eric’s bed, talking to him like I had so many times before. We talked about his day and I asked if he had made any specific plans for Lent. Eric had a big sweet tooth and had always given up candy for Lent so I assumed that was what he would do again.
“Instead, Eric told me he wanted to become a more giving person that year. I was touched by his words and the sincerity with which they were expressed. Eric went on to say he planned to commit more acts of kindness during Lent and was starting by donating several bags of used clothing to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.”
Tragically, Eric never had the chance to carry out his resolution – at least not directly. Eric died in an automobile accident the very next day, on Valentine’s Day.
However, his promise lives on and has been fulfilled a thousand-fold, thanks to the work of his mother, his sister, scores of area students and hundreds of community volunteers who took up Eric’s resolve to be more giving. His legacy lives on through their efforts under the simple banner, Eric’s Promise.
The movement actually began with a letter his mother wrote to her departed son. “I simply wanted Eric to know his promise would be fulfilled,” Molnar said. At Eric’s funeral the Marian chaplain, Father Dan Scheidt, read that letter. About a month later during a memorial Mass at the high school, a large group of students brought bags of items to be donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and placed them around the altar. Eric’s mother described the moment as the most touching in her life. “I had wanted to do something special in the memory of our son so his legacy of loving and giving would never be forgotten. In that moment, I knew that the perfect memorial had already begun.”
In the years since Eric’s passing, over 150 tons of donations have been given to St. Vincent de Paul including clothing, household goods, furniture and food. This year Eric’s Promise project began on Ash Wednesday and will run through April 18th.
The day of Eric’s funeral, one of his friends shared a quote with Eric’s mother and sister, Melissa Schroder, “It’s not how long you live, it’s how you live your life.” Reflecting on that quote and how Eric’s Promise has grown over the last 13 years, Mary and Melissa observed, “It’s beautiful how one act of love and kindness can multiply into countless other seen and unseen acts of the same. When we share Eric’s story with students and businesses in our community, we remind them that we all have something to give. Eric’s life was short, but he made an impact on the lives of the people who knew him and maybe an even greater impact on the lives of people who continue to benefit from his promise.”
Thanks to Thom Villing for his creative contribution
“Create and Give”
Our lives are engulfed with miracles and wonder
Let’s show our gratitude with a heart of thunder
No need to stand around and wait to act
The time is now, move with intention and tact
In times of darkness we see light
Create opportunities out of plight
Use our power to make a positive change
It only takes one act of kindness to arrange
Every action is an extension of you
Make that extension honest and true
Fall in love with everyone you meet
Be an example of what’s kind and sweet
Melissa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be a part of this movement, simply be kindness, be a star in someone’s night sky and love selflessly.