True Generosity is giving what you treasure the most
Two years after the stock market crashed in 1929, when most of America was relegated to a level of poverty, a poverty that crippled most families, a young couple decided to marry and face the uncertain future together. Hours after they vowed their lives to each other, they started down the road in northern California to begin their modest, but traditional honeymoon. Miles away, a cloudburst stranded the newlyweds on a remote rural road that the rains had washed away. Unable to continue on their journey, they got out of their car and set out on foot toward a dimly lit farmhouse.
When they reached the farmhouse, drenched from the rains, an elderly couple, carrying a kerosene lamp, met them at the door. Explaining their predicament, the young groom asked: “Could you put us up until morning? A place on the floor or a few easy chairs would be fine.”
Just as soon as he had said this, a few grains of rice fell from the young woman’s hair. The old farm couple glanced down at it and exchanged a knowing glance. “Why surely,” the old farm woman responded. “We just happen to have a spare bedroom. You get your things from the car while my husband and I get the room ready.
The next morning the newlyweds rose early and prepared to leave without disturbing the aged farm couple. In the light of the day, they noticed that the farm home was extremely dilapidated, there were no amenities, and it was clear that these two were extremely poor, a result, perhaps, of the depression. Another shock to the young couple was that when they quietly came down the stairs they noticed the elderly couple asleep in the well worn easy chairs. You see, there was no “guest” bedroom.
A couple of weeks later, the old couple on the brink of bankruptcy, received a certified letter containing a check for a sizeable amount of money, enough money to save their farm from repossession. Included in the envelope was a letter written on stationary that boldly proclaimed “Majestic Radio Company.”. The short letter read: “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Duke: Enclosed is a small token of appreciation for all you have done for my son and his new bride. I was told that you gave all you had for their comfort. May God bless you always for your generosity. Signed, Reginald Walsh, President, Majestic Radio Company.”
This story is truly a modern interpretation of our gospel message with the widow giving not from her surplus, but from all that she had. It is these our Lord tells us who inherit the Kingdom. And those who inherit the kingdom do not necessarily have to be poor, all they need to be is generous.
Generosity then, is giving not what we can spare, but giving what we treasure the most. For the poor, the few coins they own and giving those away is generosity; for those not poor, perhaps it is their most treasure, their time, given to a child, the sick or the elderly. Generosity also be given your entire prayer time to an unknown person in need, a person who is unknown to you and might possibly suffering from some malady or other problems. Another can be sharing your expertise or help, not when it is convenient for you, but when it is the most inconvenient time. These are concrete examples of what it means to give, not from your surplus, but from the heart, which is another way of saying, giving willingly from your poverty.
Just like the elderly couple who were rewarded for their goodness, we too as followers of Christ have that same capability. When we are generous and give to those in need, we attend to Christ himself. Just as Christ was ultimately generous with us by his passion and death, Christians are called to follow the example. Thankfully for many, it will not be with our mortal life, but it must be a part of that mortal life. And when we attend to such as these with our very selves, we will be rewarded for our benevolence by the heavenly Father, who gives us the most important of all gifts: the relief from the bankruptcy of our sin and death.