The Journey series
This week we consider how "it is better to give than to receive." This idea looms large in my faith journey.
As a young teen, one of five siblings raised by my single mom, I really wanted to be a priest, just like Fr Clifford. He was so cool. A few years later, as I tried to make sense of life, sans papa, I decided it wasn't possible that God’s plan included absent fathers. I could not accept the Anglican teaching on divorce. I was devastated. If that’s not right, what else? I could no longer be a priest.
Like any good Protestant, I began looking for a faith system that includes what I like but omits what I dislike. I examined many religions, sciences, and philosophies, but I didn’t bother with Roman Catholics because I ‘knew’ how bad they are. Everywhere I looked; math, physics, chemistry, karma; there was some equivalent to “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” I even heard bikers say, “What goes around comes around.”
I saw little potential in questioning such a ubiquitous idea, so I accepted it. I thought, “If that’s true, then whatever I give, I’ll receive equal in return.”
I then reasoned four things about giving only after bartering for a return:
1) If no one offers an acceptable return at a time I wish to give, I’ll lose that opportunity.
Some good things will never get done.
2) I'll have all I’m due. If something I want shows up unexpectedly, I'll have nothing in the Bank
of Good Deeds. I’ll have to do something more to get it.
3) God might know what I need better than I do. I might trade my efforts away for many little things
and wind up unable to get the big thing He has waiting around the corner for me.
4) The person I can give to might not have anything to give me and/or I might not have anything to
give the person I want from.
I decided to give whatever I could to whoever I could in faith that my return would be equal, whether it came directly or indirectly. After all, it’s the natural law. So that was me in my early adulthood; give freely because that's how to maximize what you get.
At the time, I was a student with a full course load and part-time jobs which barely paid for my tuition, books, and rent. Much of my food was gleaned (in the literal sense) and my clothes were simple. My theory seemed to work quite well while I had very few responsibilities, little to give, and much to gain. I'd often wonder why God made students so poor but gave them such big appetites. Sure enough, one of my friends would soon come by and share their sandwich, thus affirming my theory. Living in poverty (by California standards), it was also more comfortable to accept what came rather than actively seek particular things. Small gains were big wins.
Next week: What came after college?
Peter T Elliott