This past Christmas season has been full of tales of generosity. Among the most compelling were stories of strangers anonymously paying off lay-away accounts at K-Marts and Wal-Marts. I have a friend whose account was paid off. When she went to pick it up, the stranger who had paid it was gone but someone else was there paying other people’s accounts. She hugged him telling him, “You have no idea what this means.” If only this kind of generosity was paid forward every day.
Now I’m going to tell a more personal story from my own family. One that they don’t know I’m going to tell because if they did they would tell me not to write this because generosity is at it’s best when it doesn’t gloat or broadcast itself. But I’m still going to share.
My parents take tags off the “Angel Tree” at their church every year. This year, they missed the first week when they were out of town and when they returned, there were only two angels left. One for a woman, the other for a man. Growing up our parish had a similar tradition which we called Gift of the Magi. Each year my parents would pick someone the same age as each of us and a woman and man their own ages. One year when I was a teen there were no teenage girls my age or even within a year of me, so my parents pulled a baby’s tag. They asked for an outfit which we got and my parents threw in a beanie baby knowing it might be one of the few “toys” the baby would receive that year.
The tags left seemed to be hand-picked by God for them. The woman asked for a sewing machine. I am sure this was picked over as being “too extravagant” by more than a few people, but this woman would not be disappointed. My mother had a sewing machine in working condition that she wasn’t using. It was taking up space. And she had sewing boxes of supplies. The man had asked for clothing and shoes. He was a large man and clothes his size are a) not easy to find and b) expensive when you do. My parents shop often online and via catalog from Cabela’s and found they were having a huge sale. Because there was no monetary cost involved with one of their gifts and with a sale, my parents were able to give this man not only clothes and shoes that fit but more than one outfit. When my mom told this story, I was immediately struck that God intended my parents to help these two people. There were no other angels to pick off the tree, they already had one of the gifts and were able to provide more for someone who needed it.
But God wasn’t through with them yet. My mother goes to Curves to work out and while there asked one of the workers about their angel tree. They informed her all the tags were taken but one had been returned. It was for a booster seat for a child who lived with his or her mother at the Durham Rescue Mission. To ride the bus or take a cab anywhere, they have to have a seat. The person who returned it said it was too expensive. Now, car seats ARE expensive but the brand the woman asked for was a safe one that is not among the high end brands. My mom never committed to it but it continued to weigh on her mind. She went to the Burlington Coat Factory near her house and found the requested booster seat and because she is a frequent customer she is part of their discount program and got it for a good price. When she brought it in on her next trip to Curves, the staff was thrilled this wish could be granted.
God speaks to us all the time. But do we listen? Do we recognize His will for what it is? In these tough economic times with most people needing a helping hand, God spoke to many at the Birth of Christ asking them to give graciously of what they had. The people who listened and heeded his word are perhaps a little cash poorer now than they would have been…but are rich with reward in heaven.