To Give

“Blessed be God,, who is the gift we most need, God, who has given us every mercy, and who brings to us all consolation, who especially consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console others with the consolation we ourselves have received from God…” (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4)

The twenty-two students from a north suburban high school had taken great time and careful strategizing as they put Care Packages together to bring to Boulder, to the place near the public library where dozens of persons who are experiencing homelessness often hang out, to give as gifts of kindness and compassion. They assembled packages of toothbrushes, toothpaste, new socks, soap and shampoo, maybe some combs, and nail files. They thought to include toenail clippers (a real valuable item for anyone who is on their feet all the time and may have developed issues, that lead to infection), along with small bottles of soothing lotion. They had sunscreen, hand sanitizer, aspirin, and Tylenol. There were small wash cloths, hair ties for women, and shavers for women and men. Chapstick. A big bag of trail mix. And perhaps more, I’m not certain.

My daughter, Annika, had been working with this group of juniors and seniors to give them skills to, and the awareness of, a variety of intractable human issues. What does it mean to be homeless? How does it feel? What is helpful?

And among other actions that are more long-lasting, and take longer to change, they made about fifty Care Packages to take one afternoon to the folks who would be hanging out near the library. They drove over in several cars, some students arriving earlier than others.

Annika was with the first group of students, and they found about twelve folks outside the library, and gave them the Care Packages. Annika tried to explain there were more coming but that message got lost. She waited for the other students to arrive, and so they did. More Care Packages to deliver and give away! Great!

And then Annika noticed that the first group of recipients had all disappeared. Well, that was not so unusual. They often went inside to escape the blistering heat. And that’s how it came to pass that Annika and the rest of the students went in to the room of the library, the one where the folks who were living without homes for now, often gathered.

And sure enough. The twelve people who had received Care Packages were already in there. And this is what they were doing:

Giving away what they had been given, sharing the grace they had received: a toothbrush to this guy, Pete, and giving a nail clipper to Clyde who was on the verge of a serious infection. Brenda had given the comb to Bonnie who needed it more. And so on. And so on.

They were ALL, everyone, sharing what they had received so that there was something – enough to go around.
“But, we have more!” Annika explained over the din of excitement. “We have a Care Package for every one of you!”
“More?” asked Kevin. “Enough, are you sure? For each of us to have one?”
“Yep, it’s all good,” answered Seth – one of the students. “Everyone gets everything!”

By this time in the story, as Annika told me about what happened, I am sobbing. And so I am again now. What amazing grace! To take the little you have, the bits you’ve been given, and to share it – the kindness, and the trust! It took to give so freely, well, it blew me away.

“We’re a community,” Sharon, one of the woman at the library explained. “We share and share alike. Whatever one gets, is given, they share with the rest of us.”

Holy mother of pearl! Can you imagine if we ALL lived that way? Do we have to experience homelessness to finally get it? To trust in God, who gives us what we need so that we can give to others as they have need? To not hoard what we are given? To share freely, “they distributed what they had, as any had need…” (Acts 2:45)
Not one of this little community was caught out in back, keeping his or her stash together, failing to share. They all gave. The bits they had, they shared. Joyfully, gratefully.

And the really cool thing is this, too: that the students had brought enough for all to have a full, complete Care Package. So all got back what they’d given away unless they really didn’t need it and chose to give it up.
God gives so freely! We have more than enough! We have plenty to give.

And PEOPLE give so generously! Oh, mercy! Give me that spirit all the time! Make me like that, O please, God!

“God, your giving knows no ending; all our life is from your ‘store:’ nature’s wonder, Jesus’ wisdom, costly cross, grave’s shattered door. Gifted by you, we turn to you offering up ourselves in praise! Healing, teaching, and reclaiming, serving You by loving all.” Amen

(words to prayer/hymn, Robert L. Edwards, used with deep gratitude) (Thanks immeasurably to Annika, she of the airlift and the dangling, the broken leg but buoyant spirit, for giving her time to these students this year and for helping them learn to give. And now, for telling me this unbelievable story, on a nice long car ride last week, I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving. Wow! Wow!)

Jan Erickson Pearson

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