The season of giving.

December 5, 2015 § 2 Comments

IMG_0217Tis the season to shop, wrap, and add a bow; tis the season of joyous giving.

But in ways large and small we give all year long and not always because we are celebrating.

Sometimes giving is an act of compassion.

If we are lucky, giving is easy. We write a check. We hand it to someone who is trained—and paid—to exercise compassion on our behalf while we go on about our business never breaking stride.

But some giving involves the expenditure of time and a face-to-face encounter. The amount of time and the boundaries of the encounter are pre-defined, the experience orchestrated.

This is the Disney version of giving. We serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless at the shelter. The experience is safe and predictable—but we do see the faces of those we help. This act of giving leaves us with a memory that will perhaps call us to do more.

It is much harder to respond to an unplanned demand to give. We are always too busy, too pressed, or in need ourselves.

But a homeless family stands by the roadside in the rain; a friend needs a ride to the hospital with a sick baby right now; a neighbor admits there is no food in the house and if you share there will be little in your own home.

This is triage giving. There is no time to put a ribbon on it. We can’t say “maybe later.” We can only give or turn away.

Hardest of all is giving to the person or cause that will never get better, helping and helping again, although we know the next request will come before we have recovered from our last attempt at rescue.

The willingness to drown while lifting another so the non-swimmer can catch a breath, is the stuff of saints and few of us are Mother Teresa. Our compassion waxes and wanes.

The last three lines of e.e. cummings poem, “a man who had fallen among thieves,” based on the parable of the good Samaritan, sums up the most difficult acts of giving:

i put him all into my arms

and staggered banged with terror through

a million billion trillion stars  

Though we be banged with terror, may we all at some time in our lives have the courage and compassion to give the gift that asks everything of us.

That is the meaning of the birthday we celebrate on December 25th, isn’t it?

Happy holidays everyone.

 

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