There is something special about the people in our world who are givers. I don’t mean just the people who write cheques, I mean the people who actually do things for others because they see a need. As some of us celebrate mothers this weekend, I am reminded that my mom is one of those. For many, many years I have observed as she has made meals for others (something I have rarely, if ever, done!), looked out for neighbours and volunteered in various capacities – spending her retirement years helping out at a Mennonite Central Committee thrift store and cuddling babies in intensive care. She knows her skills and shares them.
This hymn is about just that. Freely giving of what we have. Considering that our lives are best lived when we offer up whatever is our bounty and sharing generously.
Grant us, Lord, the grace of giving
With a spirit large and free,
That ourselves and all our living
We may offer unto Thee.
As I thought about this, I began to wonder about what kinds of giving are best. And really, there is no answer. It sometimes feels as though certain types of generosity are touted as what we should all be doing. I’ve heard and read many sermons, articles or talks on the value of hospitality. People have much to say about giving money. These are important. But, if I am judged on my hospitality skills, my life will be a resounding failure. If financial gifts are a deciding factor, people without those particular means will feel endlessly inadequate. How does one volunteer if working two jobs to support their family, or is low on energy because they are battling a physical or mental health issue?
Giving is not about what you give. It is about understanding what you have.
And then, sharing it. With a spirit, large and free.
I am impressed by many things. I am impressed by my mother’s, and many, many others’, commitment to volunteer work. People giving of their time to do much needed work that might not otherwise get done. I am impressed by people who make large and small donations to worthwhile organizations. Providing funds for things that are important to all of us, things that improve lives and make society a better place. I am impressed by those who continuously invite people into their homes and share their meals. Opening their private spaces whether they have time for the cooking and cleaning or not.
But, I am also impressed with people who take two seconds to thank me for my piano playing, week after week, making me feel as though I’ve contributed something valuable to their lives. I am impressed by the mystery person who picks up garbage on my street. I am impressed by my student who thought to bring me a freshly baked, still warm cookie. I am impressed by my letter carrier who is endlessly cheerful. I am impressed by my regular grocery store clerk who, although a bit flustered by a new computer system, did her best to make my check-out pleasant. I am impressed by the artists in my world that work so hard to provide moments of refuge in this challenging world, often for little recognition and compensation. I am impressed by friends, near and far, who remember the smallest details and often provide things, be they words, gifts or actions, that are exactly what is needed.
The act of giving is a vast realm of possibilities. It is a way to reflect on one’s own good fortune. We give what we have, we give what we value, we give what is needed. Giving is not an act to be judged or ranked. It is an act to be celebrated – in all its forms; big, small, obvious, secret, quiet and loud. Thinking about this cultivates a desire to be thankful and to consider carefully what we actually have to offer, often much more than we realize. Giving these things freely is a celebration of the recipient, and of our own abundance.
Give with grace. For there is no such thing as a small gift when given with a large spirit.