Every day so far during this series, I try to have an idea in mind for what I will give that day. Some days are planned well in advance, others come to me on a whim. In the few weeks before the 29 Days of Giving began, I tried to jot ideas down as they came to me, or bookmark things I came across on the internet.
I'm a little over halfway through the 29 days now, and for the first time the end of the day was approaching and I hadn't come up with anything to give. I had a couple of ideas in mind and for various reasons they didn't work out today.
Huh, I thought. This isn't good. I knew in the back of my mind that I could always choose one of the organizations I've bookmarked and write a check. And it isn't that making a donation isn't a good thing – it's just that I've done that a few times already. Not only can I not afford to write checks for 29 Days, I think it misses the point somewhat. Giving financially is good. But I believe we are called to give in different ways at different times. Sometimes that means reaching into our wallets. But other times it means giving of our time or of our talents.
And then there is the idea of who exactly we are willing to be cheerful givers to. My good friend Lisa A. told me about a sermon she heard once. The pastor was talking about how many times he had been on the receiving end of really wonderful things. Women from the church would bring over amazing meals. Men from the church would fall over themselves to help with yard work or building projects for the church. And then these very same people, who gave so easily to him, would turn around and complain bitterly about having to put a meal in front of their very own family. Husbands would grumble about Honey-Do lists or requests from wives to run to the store to pick up a gallon of milk.
It's so hard to give cheerfully of our time and talents to the very people who would cherish it most – our own family. I could turn complaining about serving my family – especially my spouse – into an art form. I have this really fun game I play that I like to call "Pissing Match."
Yes, dear, I'm sure you worked very hard today. But let me tell you about my day. Did you have 30 minutes to eat your lunch without interruption? I didn't. Did anyone walk in on you in the bathroom? I didn't think so. When you were on that super-important phone call with your customer, did your co-worker call your name 35 times and then throw himself onto the floor in a fit when you shut your office door so you could hear the person on the other line? Mmm-hmm. Complaints? I don't want to hear it. I would skip to work every Monday morning if I were you.
It's kind of an entertaining game until you figure out that there aren't any winners.
So there I am, turning my brain inside out trying to figure out who I can dole out kindness to today, and it's not until 5:30 p.m. that I realize I could actually be kind to my very own family. I wonder how many times God was tugging at my shirt sleeve today trying to tell me this, all the while I kept moving to another room and closing the door.
Today I Gave: Kindness to my own family. Cheerfully (I'm pretty sure that's the key). I made dinner without slamming cabinets and heavy sighs. I played a game with Eli. Mike kept the kids out of the way last night while I hosted Book Club, so I offered to put both kids to bed tonight. I read an extra 5 minutes to Elena. I played a little bit of Just Dance 2 on the wii with Mike (I did kick his butt, though. My kindness has limits.). Instead of retreating into my computer world right away, I chose to watch a show with Mike and do that thing with my fingers in his hair that he likes.
Today I Received: You know, it's funny. One thing I'm not crazy about in this concept is the "I Give, and Therefore I Get." But this was one of those things where you really do get something back right away. When I showed my family little kindnesses, they responded by being kind in return. The kids went to bed content, without whining or requests for "One more . . . " Mike unloaded the dryer while I put the kids to bed. Perhaps this has phenomenon has always been present, but I didn't notice because I was too busy keeping tabs on all my burdens.
How about you? Is there something you'd gladly do for someone else, but dread doing for your own family?