About 9 years or so ago, my 17 year old foster daughter spent the weekend with some friends. When she got back early Sunday evening, she was eating like she was ravenous. When I questioned her, she said it was because she really didn’t have much to eat all weekend. I was really upset, and I told her that she should have called me. We took her into our home to improve her life, and part of that was that she should never go hungry. She explained that the two girls that she was staying with (twin sisters) had spent all of their money on formula for the baby of one of the girls. They were both working, but the mother of the baby had lost the birth certificate, and until she got the new one, she could not get WIC, so they had to buy formula out of pocket. I was pleased to hear that at least she had gone hungry to benefit the baby.
The next day I took her grocery shopping for the girls. I shopped for them the same way that I shop, buying what was on sale, thinking of meals in my mind. I bought a variety of fresh, canned and frozen products, some staples and a few treats. I don’t recall how much I spent, but we got a cart full of groceries for about $150 or so. We delivered it to her friends. I explained that this was a one time deal, I was not going to shop for them again. But that I was hoping that this would get them over the hump until the WIC vouchers came, and might help them get a little bit ahead of the game.
When we got home, my daughter said something that stuck with me to this day: “I thought you were just going to buy them a couple frozen pizzas. I hope I can be as generous as you one day.” I thought for a few minutes, and then I told her that was not the way to look at it. I said you need to start practicing generosity now, with what you have. It is not about how much you give, but that you give. When you see a need that you can meet, you should do it. I was not always able to spend $150 on groceries for someone. My resources have grown over the years, and they still wax and wane at times! Sometimes I could buy someone a sandwich, or a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. The point is to give what you can when you can. That way you have practiced generosity, so that when you have more, you will give more.
This concept came to me again a couple months ago. I was at a celebration of life service for one of my elementary school teachers. She was an amazing woman, and many people had come to celebrate her life with her family. One of the things that kept coming up was the hospitality that she and her husband showed to so many people over the years. I was standing in line behind a young man who was a friend of the family, and he mentioned how much he loved their parties, and he hoped that he could share such hospitality “some day”. I told him the same thing that I told my daughter, “do not wait for someday”. Practice hospitality now. If you have a friend in need, invite him out for a cup of coffee, have her over for a pizza or a home cooked meal. It is the spirit of caring for another, not the size of the meal or the extravagance of the celebration that matters.
Think of what you want to be for others, and start doing it with the resources you have now. Do not wait for the future, if you do not have the practice as part of your spirit, it will not get any easier when you have more.