Monday, June 27, 2016
“For it is in giving that we receive.” ― Francis of Assisi
One of the greatest gifts you can give someone who has less than you do is to give them the ability to give. When we moved to Africa, we had to give away a lot of belongings. It was hard, at first, but became easier and easier until it became nothing but joy. We had a lot of used furniture we couldn’t take, but I called a friend in Hispanic Ministries and told him to have his church members come with their pick-up trucks. Many had come to live here with nothing but the clothes on their backs and were sleeping on the floor. Within three hours, six trucks and families had come and everything we needed to give away was gone. The people receiving it were so happy and grateful that we were all crying at one point. I have never felt so good about myself as when I was giving my things away. When we came here, we found ourselves giving things away almost every day to our staff or neighbors or church members who had real needs. Then, when we started to give pairs of breeding goats to new widows with children, we decided not to go to the goat market ourselves. It seems Americans are all considered to be millionaires so prices get tripled or more when they see us, so we sent Tanzanians to buy the goats and then to deliver them. We didn’t want the people receiving the goats to know they came from us, or we would have people lined up all the way to Mwanza to get goats from us. We had Tanzanians buy the goats and then had Tanzanians deliver the goats and to say that the goats were gifts from the Methodist Church in Tanzania. What surprised me was how happy the Tanzanians were who were giving the goats away. It struck me that the poor almost never get to give to others (I can be slow at times). We started having our staff give our excess fruit and vegetables to our neighbors, telling them to say the gifts were from the staff and not from us. That made our staff very happy as they were thanked and blessed over and over. Sometimes, we would have new soccer balls in the car, and whenever we saw some kids playing with rolled up plastic bags in the shape of a ball (see picture at right), we would throw them a new one and say it was a gift from God—quickly driving away. But that was the gift coming from us, and there was an even bigger gift that we could give. I’ve gotten a lot of used watches from friends on my watch forum to give away, and I gave away the first ten or so but then had Shaban start giving them away. It made him feel very good and cemented some good relations with doctors, nurses, and government officials. John realized what we were doing and started to buy new soccer balls for the kids who play every night in the soccer pitch with goals that he had built next to the church. A couple of days ago, he sent Francis to the store in town to buy a new soccer ball. The brilliant thing he then did was to have Francis give the ball to the kids, telling them it was a gift from him, Francis. He was smiling ear to ear. There is no way to measure the joy of being able to give something to people who have nothing when you have nothing yourself. Maybe one of the most important things we have learned here is how to give the gift of giving. Maybe you can learn it, too, if you don't already know (I can be slow).