Last week I read the book One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity by Debbie Macomber. It’s a wonderful little book with dozens of stories of people being generous in some way, and the consequences of that single act of generosity – to the recipient, to the giver, and to the observer. The book also includes dozens of suggestions of ways we can practice acts of generosity. One of the principles demonstrated by the stories is that joy is a natural outcome of generosity – joy that is shared by all involved.
Yesterday I learned that a friend of mine died last week. Mardelle Kornelsen Westley Burrowes is the sister of Clark, my sister Nancy’s husband. I’ve known Mardelle since 1960, the year before Nancy and Clark were married. I saw her briefly every few years at family gatherings, but I never knew her very well until three and a half years ago when I started writing this blog. She immediately became a regular reader and frequent commenter. By communicating through this blog, we grew closer. Her simple act of kindness in regularly giving me feedback on my blog brought a lot of joy to me. Mardelle even wrote an endorsement that appears in my first book. I’m very thankful for being a recipient of Mardelle’s generosity.
The Gospel reading on Sunday was the story in Matthew that is often referred to as “The Feeding of the 5,000.” Jesus asked his disciples to feed the people who had come to see him. The disciples said the only food they had to share with the thousands of people listening to him was a mere five loaves and two fishes – a child’s lunch. Jesus blessed the food, and asked the disciples to distribute it among the people. Miraculously, there was enough food for everyone, with 12 baskets full of leftovers. The point Pastor Jeff emphasized is that God asks us to use the resources we have to do what needs to be done – not to wait for someone else who may have more resources to do it. That’s the same point Macomber was making in her book – to be generous with whatever resources we have, and God will bless our generosity.
This past weekend the generosity of two young women brought a tremendous amount of joy to our household. Mim and I were coming home from a quick trip downtown, and we saw the Hinchley twins, high school girls who live on a dairy farm a couple miles from Cambridge, walking two goats on the sidewalk near our home. They had taken the goats downtown to be part of a petting zoo for Cambridge’s Maxwell Street Day celebration. We stopped to talk with the young women for a few minutes, and we asked them if they had the time to take the goats up to our condo so that our three 93-year-olds could pet them, especially Anna who had grown up on a farm and loved animals. They were happy to do it. As you can see by the pictures, our three assisted living residents loved petting the goats. Because the Hinchley twins were generous with their time, Anna, Marti, and Carolyn (as well as Mim and I) had a very special half-hour in the middle of our day. I think it was special for the twins, too, and probably even the goats!
As the book jacket on One Simple Act says, “What if you, personally, could make the world a better place . . . by tomorrow? Debbie Macomber knows the secret to doing exactly that! In a world that seems too often stingy and grudging, she has witnessed how one simple act of generosity can yield unforeseen miracles.”
Obviously, my friend Mardelle knew about that. She was very generous in taking the time to encourage me in my writing. The small child who shared his lunch of five loaves and two fishes must have been astounded to see what resulted from his generosity. And the Hinchley twins were able to observe all the joy that came from taking the time to let three nonagenarians pet their goats.
Generosity may seem like a roundabout path to joy, but it certainly is a sure path that leads to joy for everyone involved – the giver, the recipient, and the observers.