For many college students, $100 is a lot of money. It could represent a month's worth of snacks, a few nights out with friends to a movie, or even a book or two for classes.
So, when 10 Point Park University students who attend New City Church, Downtown, were chosen to demonstrate the Biblical parable of the Master and the Talents, it was hard not only to figure out how to spend the money, but to resist spending it on themselves.
"Being a college student and giving me $100, I experienced a lot of temptation," said Manny Brown, a sophomore from Gettysburg.
But the idea of the parable is to do good for others using one's own talents.
"When you bless others, God blesses you," said Millicent Smith, a church member who organized the activity.
She listened to the students' stories and encouraged them.
For Mr. Brown, he at first set the money aside, and told himself "I would know when the opportunity would present itself."
He eventually decided to use the money to make business cards for a friend. As a graphic artist, he designed them for her.
"It taught me how to express my art through my faith -- how I can be a blessing to somebody else instead of serving myself," he said.
Another young woman, Breanna Robinson, a freshman from Pittsburgh, used some of the money to buy snacks for the school's ministry. But one day, as she walked to the CVS Downtown, she saw a man asking for a quarter to buy a sandwich for himself and his daughter.
She gave him money for food.
"He was just telling me his story. His name was Walt," she said. "It was so humbling for me and made me appreciate what God has given me."
The Rev. Rodger Woodworth, the lead pastor of the church, said the students were given only one rule: "They couldn't just write a check to their favorite charity or simply give it away to a homeless person."
For Allie Gray, a junior, she used her $100 to buy 20 bracelets from BeadforLife, a nonprofit that sells beads made out of recycled paper by Ugandan women.
"The money goes back to bettering their families," she said.
The young woman from Deer Lakes bought the bracelets and sent them, along with an individualized letter, to the 20 women who have most impacted her life.
"It actually really blessed me to realize the women in my life who have helped me," she said.
In the letters, she encouraged the other women to spread the word about the BeadforLife program.
One student, Lexx Truss, a sophomore from Greensboro, N.C., used the money to buy seven copies of a book, "Produced by Faith," that touched his life, so that he could share its message with others.
Another student, Audrey Eisentrout, a sophomore from Cumberland, Md., used the money to buy bagels for workers at a blood drive she organized on campus. Thirty-one people donated.
"Each pint can help save three lives," she said. "The workers were really surprised someone thought about them."
After the students reported back to her about their projects, Ms. Smith, who organized the effort, had another idea.
She wanted to reward the students by giving them their original $100 and found she was getting enough back on her tax return to do so.
"I told them in keeping with the parable, where the master lets each servant keep what he earned, that it was just my way of physically showing that we are blessed when we bless others."
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.