By Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor
Recently, on a Sunday morning, I talked about the Scripture, “God loves a cheerful giver.” This is one of St. Paul’s expressions. The word “cheerful” is not a very good English translation from the original Greek word. A better translation, in my humble opinion, would read…”God loves a hilarious giver.” The word hilarious in Greek has three meanings:
1. Your heart beat increases
2. Your countenance changes
3. People look at you with suspicion because there is something terribly unusual taking place.
Rick Slater, a member of our Church Council, recently sent me an email that describes hilarious giving. With his permission, I share it with you. I hope you are as blessed as I am by his story.
I really enjoyed your message Sunday – always a good one for those of us, especially, who have come from not having a lot (and, not necessarily realizing it), to having both resources and material things. Mike Oatman, founder of KFDI radio, said it best when he was dying from cancer and reflecting on his life and legacy – “My whole life I thought I was buying up tons of things to own – and it has come as quite a shock to me that I own nothing – I am only renting. It has my name on a title, but I will soon be gone and my heirs may keep it, or may not – but, regardless – 50 years from now I rest assured someone else will be renting it. Had I realized it earlier, I think things may have been quite different”.
But, that aside, you asked for stories of joyous giving – the feeling that just overwhelms you when you have really helped someone who has great gratitude for your gift. I know that feeling.
I carry a $100 bill with me for unplanned situations where I have a compelling feeling of “paying it forward” – sharing that $100 with someone who I think may need it at that moment more than I ever could.
It doesn’t happen often and I don’t go looking for it (with one exception). The situation just comes over me and I know it is right. I never share that I have done it and that seems to be part of my source of joy – pure in its intent. Oh, Debbie can tell instantly if I return home and this has happened – she can see it and sense it in me in my demeanor.
An example – we were in an inner city Dillon’s one day and a fairly young Hispanic woman came in with five young girls – all with worn, but clean dresses and their hair was clean and combed. They followed their mother and quietly respected her wishes – clearly not from fear, but from respect. I asked if these were all her children and she said “yes”. I asked her to do me a favor and take the $100 and do something a little special for them and for her. The look in her eyes – it is always in their eyes – spoke volumes of what it meant to her. And my joy was far greater.
I am very selective – perhaps to a fault – but I do not suffer fools gladly and I hope to never give money to someone who will use it for vices or ill-gotten favors. Of course, you can never know. I never give to people asking for the money – even though I risk they are an angel testing me. I give to those I think would never ask for it.
And, I have keys – the people I help don’t necessarily have “nice” things, but their clothes are clean and they try and look nice – “it doesn’t take money to bathe and comb your hair” – from Debbie’s mother.
The one key I have found is always their shoes. The last thing really needy people seem to be able to afford is new shoes. You see it in them and their children. If I think someone might look the part, but they are sporting expensive sport shoes – they simply have spent their money where they saw fit – but don’t need my help.
I mentioned one exception and it is Christmas Eve day. I do make it a tradition to search out a family or individual that might need some help, but I never know if I will. Sometimes I don’t. I usually go to a Walmart in a poor area and cruise the grocery aisles. If someone is buying groceries on Christmas Eve, they typically just got paid or maybe got a gift card from work, or are just trying to get “something” for Christmas dinner. The people shopping in electronics are not who I am seeking.
This year I took Doug Blackman with me as I know he and I have common heart for these types of things. We went to the Walmart at Pawnee and Broadway and as we were walking to the grocery area I spotted a very young couple with a small baby with not much in their cart and heading towards the front. They seemed to fit the bill in every way. But, we quickly walked the aisles and did not see anyone else I found of interest.
We headed to the front and the couple was just finishing checking out – paying in cash. We stopped and I made small talk, asking about their son. They were cordial, but you could see the stress in their eyes. I talked of my 10 grandchildren and not being able to see them this Christmas and asked if they would do me a favor. They said “What”. I said there was a time in my life when I did not have much of anything to celebrate Christmas and how hard it was. I asked if they had ever had a Christmas like that. They nervously said “Yes, we have”.
I handed them the $100 and asked them to do me a favor and try and do a little something special for their son and themselves, and told them there will be a time in their life when they will be able to do the same for someone else, and they can pay me back by doing it then for someone. I always know when I have the right person – they don’t have the words, but you can see what it means to them in their eyes. We said “God Bless you” and walked away.
We went to two more stores and did not find anyone I connected with, so we went home. I know it meant a lot to Doug to share this with him.
At the end of the day, I do it for me more than them, and I know a lot of people do a lot more – but it is what fits me.
Have a great week.
Lent is a great time to practice hilarious giving because Jesus is the supreme example of hilarious giving, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Blessings of peace and joy,