have been attending an online course through Indiana University and the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. Since January I have been reading and discussing financial giving and practices related to generosity with various leaders in the ELCA and other denominations across the country. Consistent themes in living generously are that living generously is a calling in each of our individual lives, it brings meaningful life to both the giver and recipients and is a part of community life shared.
It is interesting that money is so often a hard or even taboo topic to discuss, and yet we all deal with money on a daily basis. As we give of our financial resources, we engage with people, organizations, and ministries that are doing good work in numerous communities and by giving we become key partners in helping advance the mission of that organization. During the course work, we were asked to wonder and share about our earliest memories of giving; often within the homes we were raised in. It was interesting to hear the variety of experiences of those who saw parents regularly give in the weekly collection baskets at church to those whose families had little financial resources to share and chose to be generous with their time by volunteering for various events and causes. Generosity doesn’t just happen; it is a learned skill.
I have enjoyed hearing stories of generosity from classmates, board members, and committees I help facilitate as we invited others to share their own memories of generous moments in their own lives. I remember by first annual appeal here at Luther Heights with gratitude. My children, 8 and 10 at the time, were helping me put stamps on all the envelopes. They were amazed at all the letters stacked across our kitchen table and marveled at all the states we were sending letters to. We had yet to spend a summer at Luther Heights, but my kids echoed a sentiment that this camp must be really special since all of these people from all over care so much that they would give their money to partner in mission to create a holy space to play and wonder about God’s love for all.
Weekly, I am blessed by those who give of their time to help invest in the lives of others. Whether it be musicians who sing at church, or those providing technology support during worship creating an engaging experience for those worshiping at home, to numerous coaches, referees or umpires giving of their time so my children can participate in sports and learn from a team setting. I smile reflecting on the love of my neighbors as we gathered outside one neighbor’s home and sang happy birthday for his 82nd birthday. We may have been huddled in family groups in the dark with hats and mittens, but what the children and adults both experienced was the joy in giving a few moments of one’s day to brighten another’s and all of us left with a positive beat in our hearts.
Reflecting on my own life and the times another’s generosity has made a difference to me brings awareness to God’s presence dancing amongst us in daily life. I remember the long-time donor/volunteer who at a welcome event during my interview process made sure to depart with these words to me, “remember as you transition to this new role, that you have friends who will support you out here in Idaho.” These words I clung to for encouragement and God’s presence as we said good-bye to people and a camp we loved in the Midwest and leaned into what God’s vision was leading us to. To a co-worker who gave me a coffee mug with an inspiring quote that is still my favorite to use or the camper who made me a finger-crocheted necklaces out of yarn. I am so thankful for others’ small and large acts of generosity. My life, and I imagine yours, has been influenced by the generosity of others and inspires me to give abundantly.
Generosity of time, talent, and treasure invites the giver into relationship, into a life with meaning and purpose, and a life living out a call from God to share God’s love with all. There are so many ways to be generous … be it the gift of your time volunteering for a worthy cause, or a consistent monthly donation to an organization whose mission aligns with your values, to using your wisdom to help another through a problem, to making a donation to an non-profit for the first time. Living generously invites each of us to play a leading role in the story God is weaving daily. Thank you for the ways you chose to live abundantly! A value of creating joy, connection, and spreading goodness in our communities is what God is inviting us into. God wants generosity FOR us, not just FROM us; in our practices of generosity, God is developing us and calling us forth to be all we can be. We are part of something bigger than ourselves as we give of our time, our talents, and our financial resources.
God, our Holy Parent thank you for the many blessings and treasures in my life; people who support and walk alongside me, financial blessings, and purpose to my days. Please open my eyes to the needs of those around me, and help me to respond generously when I have the ability to meet a need and share Your light, love, hope, grace and joy with others. Amen