Monday, September 26, 2011

Church Sign Wisdom

"No one has ever become poor by giving." 

This is the message on the sign of our neighborhood Catholic church.  I have to admit that more often than taking advice from these signs, I join in conversations where friends are poking fun at them.  But today, the message is familiar.

Last fall, when I was raising money for World Vision, I started a blog post about this same quote, which is found in Anne Frank's book, The Diary of a Young Girl.  As I remember, I failed to complete last fall's post because, even in the midst of fundraising for an excellent cause, I had moments of feeling uncomfortable as I continued to ask others to give.  I think some of my discomfort stemmed from my own struggles with giving - I struggle with giving because I'm human and I can be indecisive, stingy, and selfish.  But I keep receiving invitations to give, whether they be emails or letters from wonderful friends and non-profits doing life-transforming work, or a question from a stranger walking by my house.  Often, the invitation initiates conflict inside of me: the knowing that I need to make decisions that will involve sacrifices fights hard against the walls of self-protection that I've so carefully constructed.

And so it's a stretch for me to reach out and ask others to give.  After all, I don't want to be the cause of someone else's discomfort.  But Anne Frank's quote quiets my fears.  It reminds me that in requesting help on behalf of others, or even for myself, I can be offering someone else a life-giving invitation. I am asking you to take a risk, to open up your hands and let go of your time or money or freedom so that someone else may receive a gift that only you can give.  The resulting connection to someone or something outside of yourself is something richer and more wonderful than what you'd get with your money.  I can't recall a time when I felt that I was worse off after giving.

I'm not asserting that you should say yes whenever asked; it's good to think through a decision's consequences and to have boundaries.  But I want to encourage you to consider today's opportunities.

Do you think Anne Frank's message is true?  Can you think of an instance when your life was made different due to a decision to give?  If you have a painful giving story, can you think of something good that came from it?  Do you have a favorite church sign quote that you can share?

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