“No one can become rich without enriching others. Anyone who adds to prosperity must prosper in turn.” – G Alexander Orndorff
Giving…in our country and in society as a whole we often talk about giving, but how do you feel when you are asked to give? I’ll be honest and admit that sometimes giving feels more like a chore. But the Bible teaches us that:
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
I know that this verse is linked to giving at church or tithing but I want to use it a little differently.
The part about “God loves a cheerful giver” is something that I want to talk about today. As I mentioned yesterday I participated in the Santa Shoebox charity drive this year (check back for a little more about the charity tomorrow) but what I left out was the lesson I learnt from getting involved.
Let me take you back to January (can believe we are a day shy of November already?) when we as a company was being bombarded with requests to support various charity initiatives. In my own capacity I am involved in several charitable organisations and enjoy being part of projects which uplift the communities around me. However, with my dad being ill I realised that this year I would in all likelihood not be able to give as much as my time as I normally would. When we as an organisation then choose to support Santa’s Shoebox I decided to pledge 10 shoeboxes which was considered a lot.
Before I carry on let me quickly explain what the Santa Shoebox initiative is. The is an inspiring community initiative of the that co-ordinates the donation, collection and distribution of personalised gifts at Christmas time to underprivileged children across South Africa and Namibia. This great project was started in 2006 with 180 boxes. Last year, an astounding 70 489 shoe boxes were distributed, and this year they are aiming to make Christmas time a little merrier for 100 000 children. The box include a toy, some toiletries, stationery, a clothing outfit and a sweet treat and a little extra something age appropriate if you are so inclined.
So 10 boxes does not sound like a big deal does it??? And it wasn’t in the beginning. Once a month we would receive an email from our co-ordinator saying what we should bring and off I would go and buy ten bars of soaps, ten toothbrushes, ten toothpastes and so on and so on. But then the monthly shopping had to come to an end because we had to wait for the pledges to open so that we would know what ages the kids were.
I was so excited picking out kids whose names and ages sprang out at me and there was such happiness in the thought of spoiling them for Christmas with a special gift box. But excitement turned to agitation and happiness turned to sadness last week.
Between January and October my circumstances had changed. My dad’s medical bills along with my own have severely impacted on my finances and the thought of having to buy clothes and toys for ten kids became overwhelming.
I hit the shops and was totally shocked at the prices of kids clothes (my youngest was 10 and my oldest 17) I walked from shop to shop trying to find something wonderful which was well…..cheap. The less success I had in finding something special within my price range the more I felt overwhelmed and the less cheerful my heart became. I finally just closed my eyes and did the best I could for the best price I could get and looking back I really got some wonderful t-shirts for the boys with funky board shorts and for the girls I found beautiful colourful tops with leggings but my credit card was groaning and I had yet to find little extras.
I must have walked a 100km in search of extras that would mean something but I battled to find stuff that I thought would work and also fit into my dwindling budget and my heart became even less cheerful. I finally found some really nice nail colours for the girls and baseball caps for the boys. And so started the process of packing the boxes…..only the girls toys did not fit into the boxes.
It was pretty much at this point that cheerful left the building and resentful walked in. I walked from shoe shop to shoe shop begging for bigger boxes which I then took home and wrapped up. While I was wrapping the boxes I was moaning about how much time it was taking at the expense of the wrapping paper and I am sure it is safe to say that now my heart was filled with emptiness.
On Friday morning when I got to the office I received an email which basically told me I had like ten minutes to pack the boxes before they were going to be collected. Feeling incredibly overwhelmed and dazed Busi (one of my team) and I started packing my boxes and once done we realised that we had not marked the ages so we now had to unpack them check the ages on the clothing and then find the appropriate child’s sticker so we could label the boxes correctly. And so arrived the moment when I went into “big bird” mode and just started flapping around aimlessly and crying!!
Needless to say thanks to Busi we got done and my boxes (along with her one) was collected. The relief was palpable and although no longer overwhelmed I still felt well annoyed. Over lunch we were wondering how many boxes had been collected so we went onto the website and there my friends was where I turned into a hot mess…
On the website was all these photos of happy faces with the biggest smiles as they opened or received their gift boxes. My empty heart began to fill with shame and disgust at myself. I had not given with a “cheerful” heart, instead I had given with a heart filled with resentment, anger and irritation. The floodgates opened and my heart cried out through my tears…..me…Lisa had always considered myself a giver with a pure heart had made giving a chore. I who always said I would gladly give you the shirt of my back had not given gladly.
I was humbled and I crumbled at the sight of those kids. Yes, they will not know that my heart was not “cheerful” they will only know the joy of opening the boxes and receiving but that’s not the point…the point is I know. At the end of the day all it cost me was money which I can’t take with me when I die and time which I would have wasted on watching TV.
I am ashamed of the way I acted and I regret allowing myself to become so overwhelmed and so concerned about money that I forgot what I was doing it for and more importantly who I was doing it for. God loves a cheerful giver and I was not very cheerful in my giving to these kids so how did God feel about me in that moment….I am sure the same way I felt about myself…disappointed.
So I am CHOOSing to change my attitude. For some it is easier to give cash instead of actually giving of their time and themselves. I realise we don’t all have extra money lying around to donate to the hundreds (if not millions) of wonderful charities out there but how about cleaning our your closet and donating old clothes, or offering to cook a meal for a family going through a rough time or how about sitting next to a recent widow at church instead of watching her sit on her own.
Giving comes before receiving in both the alphabet and in life. You can have everything you have ever wanted in your career and personal life, you can have financial freedom and riches beyond measure but it is in giving that we truly receive.
I forgot that in my overwhelmed state on Friday…I forgot how wonderful it feels when you give enthusiastically and purposefully to the lives of others. I had forgotten how much you (me) receive when you give to others.
So when was the last time you CHOSE to give from the heart without expecting anything in return?
If your answer is today then I say CHOOSE to keep on giving.
If your answer is “not lately” then I say CHOOSE to start, CHOOSE to not wait.
Like me CHOOSE today to be a cheerful giver and I promise you, you will reap the rewards.