Generosity

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October Sunrise (2017)

Next weekend I will celebrate 9 years of living in Florida – 7½ years on this lanai. This is now my record for living in one place since I left my childhood home! Today I am finally back on the lanai in the early morning after a long hot summer. So many blessings for which I am profoundly grateful.

This post is a follow-up to the previous one. To recap, I engaged in a series of exercises to try to identify “issues that touch my heart.” I identified five:

  • Poverty – now defined as justice and compassion
  • Destruction of the environment – now redefined as environmental justice and stewardship
  • Latin America
  • Feminist spirituality
  • Immigration, refugees, and homelessness

This week I added a sixth area: higher education.

A new book crossed my path this week: Love Let Go: Radical Generosity for the Real World by Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell (Eerdmans, 2017). At its core, it’s the story of a church in Chicago whose leaders decided to give away an unexpected windfall of $1.6M, beginning with a $500 check for each congregant. The only instruction was that the money be spent to do good. “Throughout the book Truax and Campbell probe the connection of human flourishing to generosity and offer tools to help us reclaim our giver identities and live generously – to love and let go.” (from the book jacket)

Since my recent series of reflections are an attempt to identify matters close to my heart, I devised another exercise to extend these reflections. I wondered if I could match my personal “time, talent, and treasure” goals to the six areas that are important to me. Based on the commitments (goals) that I set for myself this year, I made a list of organizations or groups that I support with my “treasure,” the tasks and responsibilities to which I give my “time and talent”, activities, groups with whom I meet on a regular basis, family commitments, time with friends and neighbors, etc. Then I matched the time, talent, and treasure list to the six issues that touch my heart.

I suppose I should not be surprised that I contribute money to groups affiliated with issues that touch my heart: Heifer International, Catholic Relief Services, SERRV and other fair trade organizations, Anna Maria College and the Sisters of St. Anne. When I looked at the match of issues and the contributions of my time and talent, there were some surprises. Not surprisingly, my work in Adult Faith Development at my church address the important issues: programs on ecological spirituality and feminist approaches to Scripture, women’s retreats, photography class, and book club. This exercise revealed that while I did not think I was connected directly to issues of refugees and homelessness, I am connected with two groups who are: the Center of Hope South County and the Sarasota Ministerial Association. The biggest surprise is that more than any other activity, writing this blog addresses more of the issues that anything else that I do.

Love Let Go also makes a point about a saturation point – the point at which we realize that we have enough and we are enough. We can stop striving to achieve more, to acquire more, to do more. We can be generous – lavish even – because we know that God will provide and we have all that we need. We can stop keeping score. Several years ago, I reached the point of knowing that I have all that I need. What I struggle with is realizing that I am enough – without more degrees, without more study, with my current weight and energy levels, etc.

What is the point of all these exercises? I am seeing that I can do some things well and generously. I can love people with whom I come into contact. And, I can let go of the rest. God will take care of the rest. I can focus my generosity in certain areas and not feel guilty about not responding to every request or cause. I am reminded of the words of St. Pope John XXIII: “It’s your Church, God; I’m going to bed.”

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