How Big Is Your Heart?

I wonder? How generous are people – really?

Thanksgiving is coming up. A national time of gratitude and appreciation. And football and celebration I guess. But the foundational part of what Thanksgiving is supposedly about, is gratitude for generosity. It’s always odd to me that most seem to give to charities at Christmas but not so much at Thanksgiving.

Just how generous are people anymore?

I remember being struck once on a discussion board about the death of a father to six children a couple years ago. Upon hearing the news, many of us came together to see what we could do for his widow and children. Someone volunteered to set up an account for them at a bank, someone volunteered to coordinate meals, someone volunteered to see if they could fix her car. I knew this family had already been struggling financially before the accident as the father had lost his job. I remembered how hard it was for me alone with two children while my husband was deployed and due to a paperwork mix-up, he wasn’t paid for 3 months. I could not imagine having no promise of income, 6 children to care for, grieving, having to get through the legalities and discovering the youngest had a brain tumor.

All of the legal processes that suddenly engage upon a death were not only overwhelming to the family, but taking so long. The widow needed money now. Her children needed food now. None of us were without financial worry of our own. We all saw our worst nightmare in her circumstances.

Then, in the flurry of the majority of us organizing ideas we could help with, someone objected.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “We all care for her, but isn’t this gaming the system? There are programs for this. And if she doesn’t qualify, there’s a good reason for it. I’m barely making it myself. I’m sorry her husband died and all, but why should she get this treatment?”

Yes, I suppose there are programs and case workers. I don’t know what all happened as far as these processes are concerned. But I do know that this mother had to wait months for “official” help. I know that what we were doing was all she had to rely on for awhile. I couldn’t have considered otherwise when it came to pouring from my heart, but especially since having a glimpse of her reality myself.

When I went through those 3 months without pay while my husband was deployed, there was no help for me and my children. The law protected our credit, but it did not feed us or keep us watered and warm. There were no programs in place to help when a reservist doesn’t get paid due to a computer/paperwork glitch that only high ranking personnel can fix and the chain of command isn’t even in your state. The many calls I made to people who just said, I don’t know what it’d be for the guard. No business could ever get away with that. And you learn real quick who your friends really are.

I only have two children and had a promise of someday the problem being fixed and the pay coming through. That was an awful experience. I could not imagine being in her shoes. So of course I could never consider not sharing.

Are we generous? Do we hold back in fear because we see that we’re struggling too? Do we wait for someone else to do it? Someone “rich?” Someone “official?” So we don’t have to embrace it, see the struggles of others on a personal level ourselves?

Do we only give for the tax write off? Do we only give because someone will know if we don’t? Do we give to see someone’s smile? Or can we give graciously and anonymously?

When we give, do we hedge and hesitate? Do we do so with conditions?

Do we give our old clothes and expect that that’s enough for our good deeds of the year? Do we only give what we don’t want?

Do we give time and never our money? Or do we give money and never our time?

Are we generous with supplying pleasant memories? Are we generous with our compliments and praises? Or is that saved only for our criticisms and judgments?


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