The most generous woman of our time, Mother Teresa, will be canonized September 4th, 2016. She abandoned everything to serve the poorest of the poor. Here are three stories that show you can live like Mother Teresa right where you are - in college.
1) My grandmother gave her money without the security of knowing she had enough.
My grandmother would go to church every Sunday at the little Methodist church in the small town of St. Mary’s, Kansas. I would always see her put a monetary offering in the golden plate when it was passed around the congregation. She made a modest living off of cutting hair; by no means did she live in excess. Later in life she told me, “Whenever I’m generous with God, I find that I always have whatever I need.” I asked her what she meant. She explained that she’s had numerous times where she has either been at the grocery store shopping or needing to pay for something and when she goes to look in her wallet, she would have the exact amount of money she needed (back when people still used cash). The little witness that my grandma gave me to the Lord’s provision and its connection to generosity has stuck with me all these years.
2) My friend Lowell shares eVERYTHING.
Lowell is easily one of the most generous people I know, and he’s a full time missionary (meaning he fundraises his salary). Whenever I walk into Lowell’s house it goes something like this:
“Hey Peter! Good to see you. Would you like some food? How about a soda? No? Well here I got some cigars for us to share in my hot tub. What’s that? It’s okay, you can borrow a bathing suit and a towel. Oh also, I got some new “Man Up” t-shirts. Would you like one?” The man just gives freely, as if he doesn’t even have time to count the cost.
I told him one time, “Lowell, you’re one of the most generous people I’ve met”. He said that everything he’s received he has received freely. Therefore, he gives freely. I’ve heard that bible verse before, but I guess I’ve never seen it lived out so radically.
3) This past May, I went to Calcutta, India with a bunch of awesome SPO dudes to serve the poorest of the poor with Mother Teresa’s infamous Missionaries of Charity.
Trust me, these little nuns know a thing or two about generosity. The people they serve have nothing. Literally nothing. No clothes, no food, no shelter, no water, no family and no health. Nothing. The nuns that serve them don’t really have much either. But every day they wake up, pray for about 2 hours and spend the whole day giving their time, talents, love and attention to people who wouldn’t otherwise have anything. Then, they pray for what feels like another 3 hours, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. For two weeks, I did half the praying and serving these nuns did. I barely made it. But these nuns give of what they have: themselves, their very person.
To drive my point home, I’ll say this: when I was serving the poor in Calcutta, what seemed to make the biggest difference was when I put my heart into it - when I took the time to smile, to hold their hand, or just to sit with them. Even though I wasn’t physically doing anything for them, I felt like I was giving (and receiving) the most. Maybe this is how the Lord wants me to give. Maybe the Lord doesn’t really care about what I do practically, but more of where my heart is.
When I think about all the ways I’ve witnessed generosity in my life, I can’t help but to reflect on how I should be generous.
Should I give some of my money away? Should I pay more attention to homeless people I see on the side of the street? Should I just try and be more available to the people I’m around? The answer to all of these question in some degree is yes. Every one of the stories I previously mention gets at these different types of generosity: My Grandma made a point to tithe (give her money away), Lowell made a point to share his possessions, and the Missionaries of Charity make a point to serve. Is God asking me to give and be generous exactly like all of these people?
Usually I look for the straight, practical, black and white answer from God.
What I’ve found is that God doesn’t really work that way (at least in my life). Instead God normally just speaks something simple - something that leads me to see the answer. Here’s my best attempt to answer how I should be generous: I decided that I want to have a disposition of Charity. The virtue of Charity is different from just giving. It implies giving of oneself in order to fully meet the emotional, spiritual and practical needs of others. It is difficult to constantly be aware of the needs of others, but I want to be able to respond with charity to anyone who may come in my path. Does this mean that I have to empty my wallet to anyone who ask me to? No, it doesn’t. (In fact, I think God wants me to be prudent and smart about what I have and what I am able to give - money, time, or otherwise).
But oftentimes I’ve found I Give to someone just get rid of them and feel good about myself.
What do they actually need? Is it actually generous if I’m not willing to give them my time and my attention? I think what most people really need is someone to listen, someone to care, and someone to love them. It’s harder for me to actually give my whole self to a person, but the times I have given myself have always been the most rewarding for the both of us.
"Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.'" Acts 3:6