“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures.
The more he gives to others,
the more he has for his own.”
― Lao Tzu
READING: Mother - - A Cradle to Hold Me by Maya Angelou
It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.
During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had
A large life which included me,
For I had a life
Which was only you.
Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.
I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever.
That one day you would have to stand
And where would I be?
You smiled again.
I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned,
I admit, quickly,
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.
You thought you know me,
But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But I did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every moment,
Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence
I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing
On a breeze,
While a sob lay
At the root of your song.
The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.
You were always
the heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee,
Sweets of open laughter.
I loved you even during the years
When you knew nothing
And I knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch
Of teenage wisdom.
I spoke sharply of you, often
Because you were slow to understand.
I grew older and
Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.
Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.
I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire and to love.
I thank you, Mother.
I love you.
READING: Are you brave enough to give without conditions? by Mary DeTurris Poust (adapted)
This morning I came across a post over at Momastery that really stopped me cold. I mean, I do my little charitable stuff here and there, but I have never done anything anywhere close to as generous as what you’ll read about in the post below. I hope someday maybe I’ll have the courage, the trust, the faith to take that leap and giving without counting the cost — not on a calculator, not in my head, not in my heart. Because a lot of times I think we’re still counting the cost even when we’re trying our hardest to be generous. It’s hard to break that hold, to give and not register it somewhere.
Anyway, nothing I can say here will make the point better this story.
Today is Nicholas’ birthday. I went grocery shopping deliberately in a low-income part of town, and bought the person’s groceries behind me as a birthday present to me and my big boy (inspired by Monkee See – Monkee Do). I left before the woman behind me in line knew I had paid for her things. A few minutes later I saw her climb into the driver’s seat of her car, put her head in her hands, and weep.
I was so nervous trying to explain to the cashier what I wanted to do that I left my phone in the store. When I went back to get it, that same cashier told me that the woman behind me had been buying all of that food for a domestic violence shelter.
************************ Mary DeTurris Poust . . . I am humbled and inspired by people who do things I only think about.
Giving is one of the greatest sources of happiness and satisfaction known to humankind. We might wonder why that is? For some reason there seems to be an undeniable connection between our own happiness and our willingness to contribute to the happiness of others?
We are in fact actually hardwired with this connection. Giving on any level just naturally makes us feel good inside. A person who gives freely without conditions or expectations doesn’t ask “What’s in it for me?” Instead of selfish pursuits, they are more concerned with making a positive difference in someone else’s life. They are happy because happiness is a byproduct of giving from the heart.
Meghan decided that the birthday present she wanted to give her son, Nicholas, was an experience of unconditional giving. She paid the grocery bill for the person after her in the checkout line. From the story we have, it doesn’t seem as though Meghan had any criteria regarding the recipient of her gift. She wasn’t looking for the mom with 5 kids or the person with just a few carefully chosen things in their basket. It was simply the next person in line; the unknown woman. She did not care who the woman was or what she was buying or for whom. She just wanted to give her son an experience of anonymous generosity. The fact that it turned out that the recipient of their generosity was buying food and other survival items for woman and children in the domestic violence shelter is huge bonus points. As the writer of the blog where Meghan’s story is told says, “I am inspired by people who do things I only think about.” Indeed, we all think about being generous and wanting to make a positive difference in the world, but so often we don’t make that thought a reality or a practice.
It’s a spiritual discipline to practice giving without counting the cost — not on a calculator, not in our head, not in our heart. As with many spiritual practices, giving leads to inner peace and happiness.
According to Jonathan Wells of Advanced Life Skills, there are some real and concrete benefits of freely giving. Here are three benefits.
- Giving feels satisfying. When you give without wanting anything in return it opens up your heart to an enhanced sense of peace, love and joy. Because your motive is pure, your heart is free to experience giving at the highest level.
- Giving stimulates gratitude. Giving without expectation will feed your abundance mindset and elevate your personal awareness of others. As a result, you will feel increasing levels of compassion and gratitude simultaneously.
- Giving attracts giving. What you put into the world has a powerful influence on what you receive. This is part of that part of that giant positive feedback loop grounded an abundance mindset that I mentioned. Giving from a pure motive has a very positive influence on how you experience your world.
So, giving is good for the soul and good for the world.
What does this have to do with us? Well, are about to practice unselfish giving. Because of the generosity of benefactors of this congregation, our endowment is healthy and good sized. Because of the careful management of our finance committee and trustees who work closely with our professional fund managers, the earnings from our invested endowment can be considerable. Then, the markets where our funds are invested have good times and not so good times. You all know this. You also know that generally, the market performed quite well in the last calendar quarter of 2016. The combination of all these factors has resulted in an unusually large increase in the value of our endowment. I am not your expert on how any of this works. Your finance committee, chaired by Gil Tenney, is where our expertise lives. anyone wanting details about our endowment and our investments and our policy of distribution, etc., etc., etc. might want to take those questions to Gil or another member of the finance committee.
At the recommendation of the finance committee, our Governing Board has approved the direct distribution of a portion of our endowment earnings from 2016. Our congregation has been granted a very special opportunity to practice unselfish giving. This chance may not come again, or at least not for a pretty long while. So, it’s important that we take real and careful advantage of the opportunity placed before us. We now have the chance to give away a substantial sum of money to worthy causes or organizations or people. That’s where everyone here comes into the picture. Our Governing Board has appointed a task force of four people – Gil Tenney, Anne Parsons, Diana Barnard and me – to make a recommendation to the Board and to the congregation about how and where we ought to give away our money. Now we’re asking all of you to help us with that assignment. This is your money, and we want you to have a say in how we distribute it.
We’re going to participate in a reverse offering exercise right now. We will pass the plate once again. This time, take out a card and a pencil. Then, just sit quietly and consider what you might do with $100,000 to make the world a better place.
We do have a few stipulations on how we will distribute these funds. We’re thinking of these funds as a way of advancing social justice in our local area; a way of doing significant good. We are Unitarian Universalists and we want our giving to be in strong alignment with our UU Principles and values. Other stipulations as you consider what you would do with this money. You have to give it away – no keeping it for your own rainy day. Your gift cannot benefit you or your family directly. Once the money leaves your hand, you can have no hold over it or the recipient of your gift.
Let your heart and spirit guide you in your thinking. We want to be passionate about our giving. We want to be creative. We want to do something that matters and has a really good chance of decreasing suffering and increasing happiness for the world.
One more thing . . . Your task force will look at each and every one of these giving tree cards. We might have questions about what you’ve suggested – so, if you are willing, please put your name on your card. This is not a test or a contest. It’s just so we could ask you a follow up question about your suggestions.
Ok, when you are done writing, bring your card up front and put it on our giving tree. Let’s see what spectacular ideas you all have about how we can make an investment in life!
Finally, from dear, dear mother spirit of so many of us, Maya Angelou:
I have found that among its other benefits,
giving liberates the soul of the giver. ~ Maya Angelou
As we go forth into this world that cries for our support and care in so many ways, may we be among those givers with truly liberated souls.
Blessed Be. I Love you. Amen.