“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)
A few days ago, my mother came upon a woman in a Facebook group who was collecting donated goods for some families with children who were in desperate need this holiday season. Upon looking at the list, she felt like she could help them out with a good number of items. She contacted me to see if I had anything on the list that I would be able to contribute.
Just like most of us, I have plenty of extra things sitting around that, in all honesty, I don’t really need to keep hanging on to. Not only did I have a few things, once I started really looking, I found that I had a lot of things that I could pass on to these other families.
Giving away the goods was not the challenge of this act of charity. No, no. Physically handing things over to another person, family, or organization doesn’t take a lot of effort. I found where I really need to learn a lesson in giving and that is in my attitude.
Because, what good are all those items given to another if they aren’t given, as St. Paul says, “cheerfully”?
The attitude problem wasn’t about the things given, not even one bit. The negativity came because of where we had to go to meet this person to give her the goods – a 45 min. drive in one direction. And, the hour and a half round trip wouldn’t have really been that big of a deal IF I hadn’t had a van of two poorly napped, grumpy children in the backseat of the van.
As we drove miles off the interstate to a part of the outlying countryside of Birmingham, I began getting more and more agitated along with my upset children. I was finding it difficult to be happy that we were doing this act of charity for others in need. I was becoming angry at her for not meeting us at a more convenient location or at a better time of the day. I was aggravated with my children who wouldn’t just fall asleep in their carseat and save my mother and I from hearing loss. I was annoyed that at a very inconvenient time of the day I had committed dragging my children out on this quest.
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)
After we had met the woman and dropped off the goods, my mother worked painstakingly in the backseat to try to calm the children down while I drove. I was quickly losing my mind (it had been a particularly early and rough morning in our household) and the only way I could handle it was to offer up all the screaming for particular intentions of family and friends.
And, once the screaming subsided and the children fell asleep (about 20 min. before getting home), I began to realize how I had failed miserably to be a cheerful giver, that I hadn’t truly given because I hadn’t really given of myself. I had been selfish and angry and rude about the entire situation.
I only have a few days left before Christmas. And, I need to work harder to make room in my heart for the Christ Child. How can I possibly give Him a place to stay when I am struggling to even allow joy to reside fully within me? Right now it seems like my “inn” is too full to take any more guests. But, it can’t stay that way. I need to find a room for Him, a room decorated with joy and peace.
“Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.”
(Good King Wenceslas)