"Come with What's in your heart
We all have our cross to bear
The sweet will grow sweeter
And you will be freer still
Come with what's in your heart...now"
It was one of those days when I felt as if I couldn't get traction on my best laid plans. I'd spent the morning thinking about the i the subject of "charity." I needed to compile inspirational citations for a church meeting and I longed for them to have the ring of Truth. What I really wanted, was to be moved by a perspective beyond the view from my office window. I wanted to feel the deep drawn breath of humanity. To be filled with its hunger, and itsdefinition of true charity.
All morning I'd imagined carving out an hour or two to return to our old neighborhood in the city. There, the hungry and homeless share the sidewalk with college professors and graduate students. I knew that in this environment of social diversity, any citations I'd chosen would either ring true with meaning, or fall flat on the face of pretense...rather than practice.
But as hard as I tried all day to make it happen, my visit to the old neighborhood just wasn't in the cards, God had other plans for me.
A last minute appointment, scheduled just before I had to pick the girls up from school, took me in exactly the opposite direction of what I'd intended. I found myself in a suburban Starbucks where luxury cars -- rather than shopping carts filled with redeemable soda cans taken from trash bins and dumpsters -- defined the socio-economic baseline.
At first I was disappointed and cynical. I'd longed to feel the want and woe of a neighborhood in which "need" trumped "want". I couldn't imagine that I would run into anyone in that Starbucks who needed anything, much less charity.
But, I'd long-learned to trust that God was the Captain of my comings and goings. And that if He had led me there, and it was He who had put this desire in my heart to practically demonstrate, and apply these Bible-based principles...relating to the subject of charity... wherever I was, then this was exactly where I needed to be.
As I sat there praying, I couldn't help but notice, through the front windows, a large SUV pull into the parking lot. A teenage girl and her mom got out and approached. The mom was broken. There was no other word for the look in her eyes. It was clear that there had been harsh words, and the mom's face was stoic, but pained with heartache. The daughter's face was critical and cold. The look she shot in her mom's direction was one of disrespect and disdain. But her mom moved through the space between the car and the front door of the coffeehouse with dignity..reaching deep within herself for love, patience, and poise.
I admired her grace. It was palpable in the spite of the daughter's angry sniping at her heels. All conversation stopped once they entered the store until mom turned to her daughter and quietly asked her what she would like from the barista. A curt response followed and without reaction, the mom ordered graciously, thanking the boy behind the counter when he repeated the order perfectly and completed the transaction.
As I sat there, I realized that this woman was hungry. She was as needy as anyone I might have met on the streets of my old neighborhood. She needed kindness and understanding, and as a mom I I understood. I was filled with admiration for her poise. I was overflowing with an awareness of how truly beautiful her patience was in the face of disdain. Although I was a bit embarrassed...not sure if she would think I was a bit odd...I rose from my chair and followed mother and daughter out of the Starbucks. I called to her and she stopped and turned towards me. I said to her, "You are beautiful. I couldn't help but notice the dignity and grace with which you hold yourself. I hope your daughter sees how beautiful you are." She just looked at me and asked, "you really think I am beautiful?" I said, "Yes" And then I looked at her daughter who had a look of true surprise on her face as she said, "Do you really think my mother is beautiful?" Again I said, "Yes, I think she is very beautiful...so graceful and beautiful." With that, her daughter's face softened into a child's and she walked over to her mother and put her arm around her shoulder and said, "I think you are beautiful too mommy." The mom looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "You just made my day. I needed this. Thank you."
I learned so much in that encounter. More than money, food, or a place to live, we all need to be seen for who and what we are. We need to be seen for what we love and how we love and live.
I learned that my view of that woman and her daughter was the most valuable thing I could give them. More desirable and hungered for than gold, or cars, or a mansion on a hill. And I had lots and lots of that kind of "seeing" to spare. I had so much I could give it away all day and never run out.
I also learned that I should never prejudge anyone's experience. Our gifts are needed everywhere we go. We can never go to, or find, a place that is free of the need for spiritual gifts...compassion, understanding, generosity, kindness, long-suffering, genuine interest in another's life. And sometimes those gifts lead us to the sharing of a sandwich, a bus ticket, and most importantly, a cup of cold water in Christ's name. .
Mary Baker Eddy says:
"The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good. Love giveth to the least spiritual idea might, immortality, and goodness, which shine through all as the blossom shines through the bud."
This passage took on new meaning for me the other day. I realized that Love gives me...even when I think I have the least to give...might (the possibility to make a difference in another's life), immortality (the tirelessness of invigorating compassion), and goodness (helping someone see the good that is already present in their lives when it seems obscure) to bless the life of someone else. In that moment of giving I realize how rich I am...I have something to give.
Or as Peter said to the infirm man:
"Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee..."
This spiritual giving was foundational to my mother. When faced with opportunties for charitable giving, or philanthropy...even as a widow with eight young children and nothing in her bank account...she would affirm, for her own edification, as well as for anyone who thought they might try to convince her to hold back her widow's mite, "my children have the right to be generous." I now realize what she has always understood, that giving is as fundamental as breathing to the human heart.
All you need to do is "come with what's in your heart". Enjoy this beautiful song performed by one of my favorite Colorado-based folk/bluegrass/country bands, Dakota Blonde, and written by their lead singer and our friend, Mary Huckins.
What is in your heart...right now...
[photo of Carol & Lizzie by Scott MacKenzie 2008]