Recently, I attended Ecumenical Stewardship Center‘s Generosity NEXT conference in Nashville, TN. During worship on the first day, the preacher suggested that before we can talk about generosity and money, we need to remember.
As I thought about my own giving and the generosity that flows out of my life, I began to realize that remembering really is a key part of generosity.
Remembering is an important part of my faith tradition. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that all religions value remembering. Our sacred texts are full of stories from the past that remind us where we came from and give us hope for the future.
This remembering naturally elicits gratitude. How can one not be grateful when recalling the moments of fear that turned into safety? It’s impossible to remember healing and reconciliation and new life and not be grateful!
There are so many organizations and groups that I’ve encountered in my life that lead me to feelings of gratitude. For the past nine summers I’ve taken a group of 30-50 youth and adults to the mountains of Appalachia to help make homes warmer, safer, and drier.
I remember the anxious 14-year-olds unsure of what will be expected of them when they arrive on Sunday. Just five short days later, they confidently showed me how they helped re-roof a house. I remember the one-time freshmen, now upper-class college students who mentor and guide the younger youth.
I remember adults who use a week of vacation to voluntarily sleep on gym floors and wait in line for showers. I remember and I am grateful. And, with a heart full of gratitude, I respond with generosity, using my resources as a way to say thank you for the experiences and opportunities they provide.
I was born and raised in the United Methodist Church. Our babysitters were the youth of the churches my parents served. Volunteers led our children’s choirs and taught our Sunday school classes. Adults encouraged me to participate in worship through singing, speaking, and dance.
It was in the church that I discovered my gifts to lead, create, and inspire. I learned about God and grace and unconditional love and acceptance in church. Later on, I started my career in the church with more mentors and colleagues. The church helped me become me.
I remember and I am grateful. And, with a heart full to overflowing of gratitude, I give back. Not out of obligation or fear or condemnation. I give back generously because of what I’ve been given. I give back because I want others to experience the same love and grace that I received. I give back because I believe God continues to work through the church today.
The end of the year is a time when many people remember – when we look back and recall what happened in the past year. During this time of reflection we think about for whom and what we are grateful – people met, organizations served, relationships built. No matter what our circumstances, if we look deep enough, we can all find moments of gratitude. And, when those moments are discovered, I suspect generosity will begin to flow freely.
May we all take time to remember, be grateful and be generous this holiday season.
Anne Brock is a program manager for Lake Institute on Faith & Giving.