For a time, I volunteered at the Freeport Area Church Cooperative (FACC), a homeless shelter and food pantry in the city where I lived. Scarcity, giving, and gratitude were narratives that chased one another every day at FACC with the flow of donations and distribution of services, goods and foods cycling in and out. We were always in need of something, yet the entire endeavor was fueled by generosity, armfuls of groceries delivered to volunteers who kept the doors open.
One Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I arrived expecting to hand out every last holiday fixing we had available. The family solace bringers would appear, doing all they could to create that feeling of abundance, safety, and wholeness that a family feast can bring. Apon arrival, I discovered that FACC had received a large donation of 40 frozen turkeys! I will skip over the logistics of freezer space issues and equitable distribution concerns, to tell you that being a part of giving those turkeys away to families that day was one of the best experiences of my life.
The Buddha said, “If you knew, as I do, the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing some of it.” The sheer force of generosity on the day, in those turkey give away moments, shifted all the energy to pure joy, each of us were filled with a kind of ecstatic ebullience that radiated with wide grins, shared recipes, and open hearts.
“Generosity is this powerful for very good reason. Because it is characterized by the inner quality of letting go or relinquishing, it reverses the forces that create suffering. It is a profound antidote to the strong habits of clinging, grasping, guarding, and attachment that lead to so much pain and suffering. Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression: we experience joy in forming the intention to give, we experience joy in the action of giving, and we experience joy in remembering that we have given. As Gandhi said, ‘The fragrance remains in the hand that gives the rose.’”
~~ “The Joy of Generosity” by Beth Roth
The beacon of generosity shines brightly at First Church. We exist on the generosity of our ancestors, members, staff, and community while offering diverse paths of generosity to find and follow. From ushering to working for justice, from Guest House meals to Religious Education volunteers and more, may each of us find a generous path here that brings all the joy of giving.
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education