Posted by: dacalu | 18 October 2009

Charity

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? (Matthew 7:9-10)

The time is now.
This is not always the case.
(Sometimes, alas, the time was then; often the time is not yet.)
The time is now.

We have been arguing recently
in the Christian community
in the United States
in the Episcopal Church
We have been asking questions about who we are,
what we’re about,
and where we’re going.
These are good questions.
I like questions and challenge people with them on a regular basis.
Still.
The time has come for action.

Fix something.
I have yet to meet a single person who thinks
nothing in the world is broken
in need of mending.

Help someone
even if that someone is yourself.

And here we get into complications:
all those messy questions about how to help,
but so many kinds of help are not complicated.
Start with needs.
People need things:
Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing, Medicine,
Self-Respect, Knowledge, Companionship, Hope,
Love
Move to motivations.
What does this person want that I would want if I were them?
Christians have a bad reputation these days.
Too often we have offered people goods that did not look good to them;
too often we have shared “good news” that in no way brightened their lives;
too often we have tried to convince them they lacked things
they never felt the want of.

Let us start instead by listening to what people ask for.
(And yes, there will be those who want and need things of which they are totally unaware. Leave that to expert helpers. You know who you are. They will tell you that the people are asking, you just have to know how to listen.)

Listen to what people ask.
Then see if it lines up with what you would wish for them.
There are enough needs in the world that we will find ourselves
completely occupied with only these needs—
things people want and we want for them.
This is true liberality…generosity…charity.
Give it to them.

Why is this complicated?
Start with the dollar to a man on the street.
Work your way up to helping out a neighbor in financial straits.
Work your way up to tithing at church,
or giving money to the countless charities on television.
Are you in need financially?
Then move on to something you have to offer.
Maybe you can cook for a shut in.
Maybe you can talk to the homeless woman who wants to talk.
Maybe you can just visit with that awkward man
who always seems about to say something,
but no one has the patience to wait for it.

To sum up:
Match up four things:
What people want
What people ask for
What you think is good for them
What you have to offer

If you can’t find this once a day, you’re not trying
(If you can’t find it about once an hour, you’re deaf, dumb, and blind.)
(Sorry, but that’s the truth)
When we are in the habit, we should be seeing it about once a second.
And it isn’t a sad thing.
It isn’t a question of how awful the world is.
It’s a matter of how much we can help.
All the time.

And one more thing.
Your thoughts, your feelings, your intentions.
These too are things needed by others.
It can take a little work to figure out where and when to speak up,
but that’s mostly a matter for trial and error.
(Sorry. Truth again, no way around it)
Start by sharing little things and trying people out,
slightly controversial opinions,
things you have a little doubt about.
If that goes over well, move up to bigger opinions, bigger truths,
bigger risks.
We have fallen out of the habit of really talking to each other.
If we do not know who we are, it is because we are afraid to say.
Who are we as Christians?
Share what you think.
You will be wrong at first.
Everyone is wrong at first,
But you’ll never know it until you share.
Argue.
Find people to argue with,
so that the next time you share, you will be less wrong.
Start conversations.
Little ones at first, but work your way up.
Same four rules:
Things people need to hear
Things people ask to hear
Things you want them to know
Things you have to offer

This is how change happens:
it always starts with people sharing;
it happens when small groups share a passion;
and how can you know unless you talk?
Find people who want to talk
and talk about things that are important to you.
It is time for change.
It is time to be ourselves,
and we will never know who we are
unless we try to share.
This is true liberality…generosity…charity.
Give it to them.

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