I am so grateful to Dr. Lori Guenther Reesor for her cover story on joyful generosity! She shares stories that she describes as miracles. In our self-centred society perhaps generosity is a miracle!
As you know, we are in the middle of a four-year emphasis called Living our Faith. We are trying to grow together in deepening our discipleship. This September we will begin the year of love, which will look at many ways we give back in service including our joyful generosity.
I’ve shared before that I am so grateful both my parents and grandparents were so open about their generosity to the church and beyond. I have tried to live by their example and I thank God I continue to grow in this practice of faith. Here are a few recent ways I have tried to practice joyful generosity.
When a clerk at the grocery store asks me to give two dollars to support a cause, such as mental health, I always say yes and usually try to increase the gift. When I say I will give $10, the clerk’s eyes light up in surprise. It is a small way to practice generosity.
I was leaving a different grocery store and there were young women trying to get donations for breast cancer research. They offered me a T-shirt if I would give them 10 dollars. I said, no, that I would give them $50. Their gratitude and joy made me so happy that I had been generous.
I don’t usually have cash on me. I end up using credit or debit or I write a cheque. This means I usually have to say I’m sorry when people on the street ask for money. That happened last summer. The man was walking away when I remembered I had a twenty-dollar bill tucked away. I ran after him and gave him the cash. His look of surprise was worth every penny.
One of the friends I have made in Palestine was really struggling during the pandemic. The borders were closed and since he was a tour guide it meant he had no work in a place without a social safety net. He was chewing through his savings and couldn’t afford school fees. I sent him a thousand dollars. I took it out of my savings, and it made a dent, but it was something I could do to help one person in these difficult times.
As a bishop whose email is available on the website I receive many requests for help and can’t answer them all. But I am so happy when I can.
Most of these moments of joyful generosity do not come with tax receipts. They are perhaps the truest form of generosity. But there are many places, like your local congregation where you can receive a tax receipt for your generosity. Then you get a gift back from the government. More to share!
I make sure that I give a tithe of my gross income each year to my congregation and other church related agencies. This year my mom and sister and sister-in-law and I agreed not to give gifts to each other but to make additional gifts to charities. What a wonderful opportunity for more joyful generosity.
I do not tell you these things to brag about my generosity, but because I agree with Dr. Guenther Reesor that we need to not keep talk about money a secret. I also know people who are more generous than I am—that always keeps me humble and striving to do more!
Join me! Let’s appreciate the gifts God has given us. Let’s thank people for their generosity. Let’s talk about our joyful generosity. And let’s cultivate our ability to be joyful givers.
Rev. Susan Johnson
ELCIC National Bishop