Soon a new year will begin, full of hope and opportunities. As my wife and I put a difficult year behind us, our thoughts turn with gratitude to what it really means to be generous, for the giver and receiver.
I believe it takes a certain amount of grace to be the recipient of the generosity of others. Having been on the receiving end of so much generosity this year, we know that the tiniest gesture is so very large and helpful.
Father Murray Bodo, a Franciscan priest and poet, wrote in his book Sing Pilgrimage and Exile, that in the midst of difficulties, heavy hearts and darkness, “we reach out, trying to find some point of contact with God. We know he is reaching down to us but our hands miss each other somewhere in that darkness, in that heaviness. We feel him all around us and inside us, but somehow we fail to connect.” Then, unexpectedly, in the love and in the presence of friends and family, he becomes visible, tangible, touching us in the generosity of others.
When you reach out to others, maybe even strangers, in response to needs, or grief, or illness, your hand feels God’s grip, ever so lightly, and his light shines in your eyes. You hear his human voice, sounding much like a friend or even your own. And then, a transformation occurs. That stranger, that hurting person, feels God’s presence and the heavy heart is lifted, and the darkness become light. And you remember Jesus telling you: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:40).
Maybe you underestimate the power of generosity, of visiting, of reaching out because it seems so simple, so easy. How much value could there be in just sitting and chatting, or writing a card, or bringing a meal? How much value? Value beyond measure! In your wake you leave a smile, a break in a routine. The heavy heart is lightened and the darkness is lifted, and there is a sense that God is close at hand.
My wife and I know all this because we have gone through extended illnesses and multiple surgeries over the past seven years. We know the power of a simple visit, an encouraging phone call. We have experienced generosity and other-centeredness first hand and we have sensed the presence of God in all these things.
So maybe it is the simple things we can do that brings peace and the presence to others. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He told us whatever we did for the least of those very persons who are our brothers and sisters we did for God.
Give this thought. Merry Christmas and have a blessed (and generous) new year.
For What It’s Worth.