Generosity in Spirit


A 12-year-old girl tells of an exceptionally tough time in her life when she experienced, in rapid succession, three significant losses. First her beloved grandfather died. Then her rabbit passed away. Finally, her cat was diagnosed with cancer. That animal, which was a long-time companion to the 12-year-old, suffered enormously with cancer. After hearing the creature cry out in pain at 3 o’clock one morning, the girl and her parents made the heart-wrenching decision to put him to sleep. “We took him to the vet, where I stroked his fur and spoke softly to him as he peacefully departed,” she recalls.

As her parents spoke with the vet the young girl left the room because she didn’t want to see her cat lying on the table. Still crying, she walked out into the waiting room. There was only one other person in that area, an older man with a black Labrador dog. Speaking in a foreign accent, the man asked what was wrong. Tearfully, the girl explained her cat had just been put to sleep. The stranger handed her a tissue, saying, “You made the right choice, dear. You were very unselfish. Just think how your pet would have suffered had you not done this for him.”

She asked if he had ever put a pet to sleep and the man nodded, saying: “Many times. Although it is sad, I think of it as one last act of love.” As their conversation was ending, her parents came out and they left.

“I never found out the man’s name, but I’d like to thank him for that act of kindness. I’ll never forget how he helped me when I was hurting,” she says.

That young woman’s pain was eased and her memories of a sad event brightened considerably because a stranger was kind to her. Most people are like that stranger. They want to give of themselves and help. But all too frequently something holds many of us back. When there are golden opportunities to act, we feel hesitant, timid, shy, reserved, retiring or even inferior.

The important lesson from that grieving 12-year-old and her encounter with a stranger is that life is worth giving. It is worth the risk of rejection, the risk of embarrassment, the risk of being misunderstood.

That is why the Bible urges us to be proactive in giving and reaching out to assist others. The apostle Paul writes: “Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them… . When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out” (Romans 12:9, 13, NLT). Here are five ways to be a great giver and, in the process, demonstrate that life is worth giving.

give kindness

There is never enough of this commodity in daily life. What the world needs is more kindness in thought, speech and action. The ability to be kind is far more important than wealth, power, prestige, fame or education.

In her book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen stresses the importance of kindness, writing: “During a long ago trip to Canada, I visited a historic graveyard and came across a headstone inscribed: Here lies George Brown, born a man, died a gastroenterologist.

I could not have been more than 12 or 13 at the time and I remember being inspired by this.

Since medical expertise was so highly respected in my family, I had thought inspired by expertise as I once was.

Perhaps the worth of any lifetime is measured more in kindness than in competency.”

give opportunity

Look for opportunities for others to advance, achieve and accomplish their dreams. The example of Oseola McCarty is an inspiring one. McCarty, a washerwoman, carefully saved from the small income she made taking in laundry.

Eventually she had $150,000, which she gave toward the creation of a college scholarship fund. “I’m giving it away so that children won’t have to work so hard like I did,” she says.

Of course, one doesn’t have to give away a six-figure amount of money to help others. Often a small contribution can help a person move along and realise a goal. Remember, many people experience defeat simply because they didn’t have a supporter along the journey.

give encouragement

Be a cheerleader in life. Encourage a student. Encourage a young athlete. Encourage a community volunteer.

Encourage your child’s teachers.

Encourage those who are working hard to make your community a better place. People blossom and grow when they receive the nutrients of encouraging words. The members of Lahaina United Methodist church in Maui, Hawaii, know the importance of encouragement. They include these two notices in their church bulletin every week: Would you like to pray with someone?

Immediately following our 10.30 am service, worship leaders will be available at the front to pray with you for your special needs.

Encouragement cards are available on the back table for you to send a message, greeting or encouragement to someone in need. Write out your message—we’ll mail it for you on Monday—let us encourage one another!

give compassion

Compassion is another one of those rare commodities today. Because the pace of life is often so hectic and frantic, people too easily lose sight of compassion and its power to heal and soothe a hurting spirit. The giving of compassion is something sorely needed.

Nurse Diane Goodman tells of witnessing the healing power of compassion.

At the time, she and other nurses were caring for a patient who was extremely challenging. “She barked demands… . When given pills, she’d dump them out, line them up and question the nurse about each.” More difficult was her “battle of the bedside table.” The patient demanded two tables.

One held pens, the call button, eyeglasses, books, tissues and a pair of slippers, all carefully arranged. “No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong!” she would shout at the nurses. “She demanded that her table be aligned with military precision. We dreaded bringing her meals and medicine,”

Goodman recalls.

One nurse, however, chose not to see the patient as bitter, difficult and cantankerous. Rather, she saw a woman who rarely had visitors. She offered to take the patient her meals.

“I don’t know how you like the table.

Perhaps you could show me,” she said upon bringing the first meal. The patient explained how she liked the table arranged. Gradually, that nurse and the patient became friendlier and friendlier. Issues over the pills and the table soon lost their importance.

“Her health improved quickly and she stopped arguing with us,” Goodman says. “It had taken a table, a caregiver and a dose of compassion.”

give hope

There are many people who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves isolated, lonely, vulnerable and without much support. More than anything else, they need a dose of hope. Hope restores confidence, faith and expectation for a better future. Be the one to offer this invaluable gift.

Robert Bowers tells of joining a group of volunteers engaged in outreach to prisoners. Those incarcerated men were separated from family and friends and needed someone to care.

Bowers and others were asked to correspond with 25 men by writing to them on birthdays as well as Christmas and Easter. They were also asked to respond promptly to any response received.

Despite his good intentions, Bowers says that the buying of cards, addressing and stamping envelopes and writing notes gradually became a burden.

Then he received a letter from the mother of a prisoner he had corresponded with for more than a year. Addressing both Bowers as well as the entire volunteer group, the woman wrote: “I wish I could speak to each of you personally, to express my deepest gratitude for taking time to love my son while he is in prison. Your cards and letters may have seemed like such a simple thing, but they brought hope to him when he had no hope. Your thoughtful words were so encouraging to him, that he began to write to me more often and I can ‘see’ him smiling as he writes. So, while you were loving my son, you were also blessing me deeply, bringing peace to my soul. May God bless each of you for your kindness.”

Bowers says that note not only inspired him but taught him this important lesson: “Sometimes we are afraid to lend a helping hand to strangers or we just don’t want the bother. I hope that I never again draw back from offering a hand to any stranger in need of my help.”

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