Thursday, September 25, 2014

Generosity

When we had our home study visit (eons ago, it seems!), our social worker spent much of the time trying to understand our finances.  We make very little money (grad student stipend!) and yet live a comfortable life and are able to still put some away in savings.  How do we do it?  Well, certainly we are thrifty in pretty much every area of our lives, but it goes beyond that - it's really about the generosity of others.

I used to be one of those people who would say no to an offer of help practically before the person had even finished offering.  I didn't need help.  I was plenty capable of doing or obtaining whatever it was on my own.  I also used to be pretty stingy about giving help.  I was quick to say no to requests because I felt I was so busy or I didn't want to lend something because it might come back to me damaged or not at all.

But things have changed since moving here to South Bend.  I was pregnant when we arrived and was about to start my stint as a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  It started with a baby shower from our Christian community.  At first I said no.  I didn't want strangers spending money on me and making me the center of attention.  But then I realized that I was actually offending people by saying no.  They wanted to be generous.  They wanted to share with me.  They wanted to share things, but more importantly, they wanted to share life.  They wanted to be connected with me and our family, interwoven into our joy and our struggles and our successes.  Some gave words of wisdom, some spent a fortune on baby stuff, and some gave gifts of used items from their own houses.  All was given generously and that started me on the path of learning to accept generosity.

And it didn't stop with the shower.  People continued to give us things.  We haven't bought clothing for our children since moving to South Bend.  We haven't bought any shoes.  We have bought very limited toys and games.  Last Christmas our presents to the kids were mostly from things given to us.  People's overwhelming generosity allows us to live well.  And it's not just generosity from people in our Christian community.  We've gotten bags full of clothes and outdoor toys from our next-door neighbor's daughter's family. We got a free Pottery Barn crib, mattress and sheets from a woman on Craigslist who saw my "Want to Buy" post.

The concept of "pay it forward" is based on this idea that generosity is contagious.  The more generous people were to me, the more I started to become generous.  I've given away nearly all of my baby supplies.  Mostly to friends, but also to strangers.  None of my friends needed my crib mattress, so I listed it on Craigslist.  A woman came over to buy it and told us all about how they were adopting and were home study approved and hoping to be matched with an infant in the near future.  I asked her what else she could use for the baby and gave her a baby bathtub, stroller, car seat, blanket, and activity mat.  All for the $20 for the mattress.  The old me would never have done that.  The new me didn't hesitate.

I'm also generous with my time.  If you ask me to do something, I no longer shoot back a quick no.  Most of the time I'm going to say yes.  I'm also quick to volunteer for things I'm good at.  Does it involve students?  I'm in.  Organization?  I'm your girl!

In Matthew 5:42, Jesus says, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."  And there's also one of my all time favorite parables from Matthew 25 with the sheep and the goats where Jesus says that whatever we do for others, we are doing for Him.  I've used that passage to explain why we are adopting, but it's not just applicable in the big choices of life.  I believe that God is just as concerned with our generosity in little, everyday, commonplace things.

I want to end with a passage from my favorite book of the bible - Hebrews.  In the first of his concluding paragraphs, the author says:
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Let us always be generous and hospitable and outward focused.  Let us see with God's eyes.


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On a somewhat related note, I want to share a blog post written by my cousin-in-law about giving to everyone who asks.  He looks into the biblical arguments for giving cash to those who beg on the street.  I strongly encourage you to click here and read it!

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