Gratitude reminds us that the real joy of life is becoming a blessing to those around us. Gratitude reminds us to invest ourselves and our resources in ways that multiply the blessings that we know are spiritually life changing.
Generations of Generosity
We make a difference -- every single day. The ways we drive in traffic and behave at the grocery store make a difference. Every time we smile at someone who is having a bad day (or a good day), we make a difference. Each time we make an ethical business decision, or donate our time, energy or money. We make a difference as we model loving kindness. Many of these values were taught to me by my family as well as learning from others.
I grew up in the late 40's and 50s in Duluth and can remember a special table in the house my mom grew up in, my grandma's house. The table was near the kitchen and was always set with a clean oil cloth cover and some flowers. I asked who used it and Grandma Langston told me that she'd be feeding the hungry men that came to her home. Many were out of work and would come asking for odd jobs or a meal. Grandma fed them, often not knowing if she would have enough for her and grandpa's own needs. She said that God always provided more than enough.
Growing up in Duluth, I watched my father work long hard hours for the Missabe Railroad. His job was moving iron ore and taconite from the mines to the Duluth loading docks. He told us about a family he'd see each week, with several children, living along the RRY right-of-way between Proctor and Virginia. Dad said that they were poor and did not have enough to eat, so he would not eat his lunch, but shared it with them as the train stopped to take on water. At Christmas he and mom ate less and went out less so they could provide some new clothes for these children. While they did this, they and my brother and I never seemed to go without. Mom said God would provide.
I remember asking my dad why he was so generous. He said, "Being generous is like breathing"......"I'll show you what I mean". Breathe In -- try it! Now Hold I! -- Hold It l . . Ok let it out." Dad said being generous is like breathing...If you continue to only take things in (breathe IN)...and "Never give out or share (breathe out) we won't live or survive."
Ego tells us to live out of scarcity. Ego makes us worry that there won't be enough. Ego is afraid that we won't be taken care of. Ego wants to horde more than it really needs.
Gratitude reminds us that the resources around us are not ours to hold onto for very long in the best of circumstances. Gratitude reminds us that the real joy of life is becoming a blessing to those around us. Gratitude reminds us to invest ourselves and our resources in ways that multiply the blessings that we know are spiritually life changing.
There is a couple I have met and become friends with through my work at Luther Seminary. They do not know each year if they will have enough to meet their needs. And yet, every year, by faith, they commit to provide a full tuition for a student preparing to serve the church as a pastor. They do this so there will be pastors to lead and teach future generations, believing God will supply all they need.
What I am talking about are real life experiences of gratitude and generosity that shape all aspects of how Carole and I live, our time, our involvement, our investments, our generosity.
These are tough times for many families in our country. A lot of folks are out of work. My 20 years in business, right-sizing, downsizing, layoffs, etc. often challenged us. When Carole and I were both unemployed, it was a tough time for us. Through it we always made sure that our pledge to the church was met. With limited income, we managed on less so our church did not go without. Even when the year ahead looked very uncertain we increased our gift. I remember one year when we were both out of work, in the midst of our unemployment, one of our own children was also out of work and needed financial help to provide for their children...we didn't know where it was coming from. Carole and I prayed, believed, trusted, and found a way---for us, faith in God's abundance is important, and we want to leave that faith legacy for our children and grandchildren.
We trust and always make the commitment to church first, believing that God will provide. The question before all of us is: what will be the legacy that we leave to the generations that follows us? Does it speak of the abundance of God's goodness to us? Does it witness to the generosity that grew out of our faith?
No matter what, our gift to the church is the first check we write every payday. We have not been disappointed; God's abundance has always sustained us.
Michael Zache is a Philanthropic Adviser for Luther Seminary and a Pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church with responsibilities for Stewardship and Evangelism.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.