During Journey to Membership, one of the exercises we do in pairs is to tell someone about a time when your giving made a difference, however you define it. When our giving makes a difference, we are developing the muscle of generosity, a spiritual practice for sure!
I remember when my parents asked me and my sister to consider giving our backyard playhouse to the younger kids across the street. At first, I didn’t believe we could part with it, but our parents were right – we had outgrown it. Giving our playhouse to the younger kids made a difference to them, and to us, because we learned to detach for the benefit of others. Same with toys we stopped using and the piano many years later. Developmental giving, age appropriate.
What about giving when we are not done using a favorite thing? One year at 4th of July fireworks when I was a child, someone was injured by a firework. My parents jumped up and covered them with our picnic blanket as the injured person waited for the emergency vehicle. On the way home, I asked why we had to give away our favorite blanket. My parents said, “that person needed it more than we did.”
My sister and I learned a form of tithing when my parents required us to use some of our allowance to buy a Christmas gift for an unknown child through Toys for Tots. We also put our dimes in the offering plate during children’s chapel services and collected for UNICEF at Halloween. I grew to like the sound of coins in the UNICEF box better than the Halloween candy.
These days, my practice of generosity includes tithing money to First Church and other causes, but where I’m stretching is by giving my attention. Simone Weil said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Who or what is calling for my attention? Can I stretch to listen even if that connection will sweep me into the deep and transforming river of suffering and compassion? As the song by Pat Humphries says, “we’re all swimming to the other side.” I’m honored and glad to be swimming alongside you.
Rev. Dena McPhetres, Associate Minister