This week, I witnessed drop off stations for Harvey relief overflowing. Our usual spots, our elementary school and the ALDI, were filled several times over. For a point of reference here, our elementary school is a Title 1 school with almost 70% on free or reduced meals. And I think we can probably all agree, those of us shopping at ALDI are budget-conscious.
My heart rejoices over filled boxes and carts lined up with food given generously and gratefully even when maybe they feel like they can’t give much. Their littles added up to so much.
As I talked with friends about grateful giving and what that looks like and means for them, financial was not the only type of giving discussed.
Generous giving of listening ears, caring for children, cheering on others, deciding to share our good over our stress, hospitable hearts, filled chairs at the table, those things that take our time, our attention, and our energy, they are equally important.
And those involve zero changes in our budget.
However, it does involve changes in our focus and schedules.
I’ve tried my best to be completely honest with y’all as we’ve been discussing this idea of grateful giving and I see no reason to stop now.
So I’ll be as real as it gets and confess, Y’all, I have not done this type of giving well.
But I am learning.
Sometimes, in our busy lives, giving monetarily can be incredibly easy. We write the check or send the money through PayPal or an app and we never have to step outside of our schedules and To Do Lists. Even those of us living on tight budgets, I can grab a little out of my ABUNDANCE jar, buy a couple of things off a list, drop the items in the collection box and then go on about my day.
And occasionally, I pat myself politely on the back and say, Good job, Robin! You gave!
Meanwhile, I selfishly keep my time and energy to myself for super holy things like Netflix binges and eating entire batches of cookies alone.
(I don’t eat entire batches of cookies alone.)
(I do it WHILE watching Netflix and with President Jed Barlett next to you, you are never alone.)
But the truth is, Jesus never rushed His time with people. Even when his disciples started complaining about being tired and hungry and suggested maybe You should just send all these people, the people you are teaching, send them all on home now so everyone can eat. Everyone meaning me. Us. The grand We. Instead, Jesus said, You feed them. And then He kept on teaching.
Sometimes, y’all, we need to stop complaining about time. Stop expecting people to be anything less than hungry for some goodness, some generosity, some gratitude and just feed them from what Jesus has already given us.
And, just as a reminder, Jesus has given us LIFE. Abundant and free. We have THAT.
So how can we give of ourselves? How can we be generous with our time and attention? How can we shift our focus away from our busy lives and look around us?
Here are some ideas from the people in my life who give of themselves well…
People In Our Busy…
Sometimes, we overlook the people standing right beside us. We don’t mean to, for sure. But we probably project our own life onto theirs.
And in our own lives maybe we’re good, we’re fine, we’re busy but fine.
Only, it’s entirely possible the people around you in the busy are not at all fine.
Look around you at parent meetings at school, at soccer team practices, sitting next to you at small group. Those women are your people. They are right next to you, in the middle of a busy, hectic life. Introduce yourself. Start a conversation. Complimenting the adorableness of their kid is a good place to start. Ask them about their day, their week, their life.
The working mom who can’t come on field trips or class parties? Offer to send her pictures and videos of her daughter when you are on those same field trips and class parties.
The mom at soccer practice might need to just vent. Lots of people are external processors and, honestly, they simply need a listening ear.
The friend in your small group might just be carrying a heavy burden and want someone to pray alongside her. Infertility taught me you don’t have to fully understand what someone is going through to be interested in their life and their journey. Don’t believe the lie that says if you haven’t walked through the same fire you can’t feel the heat. The refining fires of life hit us all and few people are truly willing to walk through those with us.
Pay attention to the people already around you in the busy-ness of life and give them your attention, your time, your care, your focus.
Love the People in Hard Places…
Some people are living, and possibly only surviving, in the hard, unseen places. What we do see is a distance, a tight smile, crossed arms, head bowed, avoidance. Or we see the opposite. Aggressive, dramatic, loud, abrasive, grumbling, always ready to pounce.
And we take the hint and stay away.
Only, maybe we are observing behavior intended to push people away, meant to throw us off, meant to force us to miss their pain, their loneliness, their need for friendship.
The mom with the child just diagnosed with Autism. She needs love. Her kid needs love.
The woman caring for her parent fighting terminal illness. She needs love.
The co-worker struggling in the midst of a divorce. She needs love.
A precious friend of mine, in talking about just this thing, said this…
“So many tiny unseeable pieces make up a human body. One hormone out of whack puts the whole body into chaos. Why can’t your one small thing for another human make the small adjustment in their life so they can be the change agent? You can be the screw that secures a rung in their ladder for them to climb up.”
You can be the screw that secures a rung in their ladder.
It’s possible and likely, the people we feel are hardest to love are actually people in the hardest of places.
Jesus never saw people as their hard places. He didn’t refer to the man as, “the blind man.” He referred to him as, “the man who was blind.” To Christ, he was a man first. And blindness was the hard place he was in. The hard space in which Christ found him.
What if, maybe, we saw that hard friend or challenging co-worker or annoying family member as a PERSON in a hard place? And not a hard person?
Let’s find the people we believe are in hard places, because everything about their demeanor and actions tells us they are, and intentionally be their friend. Let’s be the screwdriver tightening up that one screw on their ladder to their next step.
Be A Cheerleader, a Victory Dancer, and Possibly a Babysitter…
Listen, we live in an extremely competitive culture and I don’t think it’s a generally accepted practice to cheer on others, celebrate the victories of the people around us, or serve them as part of their support system.
But that’s exactly what we should be giving to others.
Because at God’s table, there is always more room.
There is not a limit on the number of people who can join us at that table.
Especially as daughter’s of The King, we should be the first to cheer on others. Celebrate the victories in their career, during potty training, pursuing exercise goals, in their decorating the most amazing Christmas tree.
Give others your encouragement when they want to quit. Cheer them on when they are considering giving up on the race you know God has called them to run.
Be the first person to dance with them over every victory. Big, small, unseen even. Dance, rejoice! It is so rare to find people celebrating with us instead of worrying if your victory means there are fewer victories for me. Be the person who celebrates because they know a victory for one of us is a victory for everyone in her life!
And if you know someone who needs help, be the help. Offer to keep the kids while she gets some work done. Or come over while she works and let the kids play happily while you cook dinner. Ask what she needs to accomplish a goal, to complete a task, to meet a deadline. To regain a bit of sanity.
Be the friend who cheers first, dances with them, and serves as a part of their support system.
Gratefully giving of ourselves, our time, energy, focus, can sometimes feel more sacrificial than giving money. We value our time. And we don’t have much in reserves so we chose to be selective about who gets our time.
But what if we lived our lives as if our time could be budgeted and focused and donated to others just as generously and gratefully as our money?
We can. It might be a harder change to make but we can. Because in Christ, we have life, ABUNDANT life, and friend, that means, in Him, we have the time. We simply need to decide to give it to others instead of Netflix and cookies.