I’ll be honest. This being generous thing can be hard on the mind, heart, and wallet.
My daughters and I were up in Chicago to check out the Shedd Aquarium, last Friday. The waters inside were amazing, and so were the waters of Lake Michigan.
We were coming back from a breath of windy air, to go back inside. The girls were a bit ahead of me. A man walked up to them with some friendly banter and thrust a folded newspaper into each of their hands.
When he got to me, he stopped and pushed the paper at me. I took it and stuck it under my arm. He said his name was George and he was trying to get together $13 to get a room for the night. I said I bet he wanted a place on such a cold day.
I thought George was distributing a Chicago version of Street Sense. In Washington, DC, Street Sense is published and distributed by and for people who have experienced poverty. Men and women, who might otherwise be unemployed, sell the newspaper out on the streets.
I was already getting out my wallet, and feeling good about this purchase. I asked George how much the paper was. He said, “Three dollars and fifty cents.” I handed him a five dollar bill.
Something shifted. I saw George look at the other five dollar bill that was poking out of my wallet. George gestured at my daughters and said, “You have three of them.” I raised my eyebrows at George. Then I thought how I was prepared to be generous and I pulled out the other five.
George took my money and began to move away. He didn’t mention that I owed him fifty cents.
I flipped the paper open and realized George had handed us copies of Grab, an LBGTQ publication. That’s fine. Except Grab is distributed for free.
George had clearly grabbed a stack of Grab from the paper box and was busking his way through the unsuspecting tourist field.
“George!”, I cried, as he backed away. “You scammed me.” George shrugged, waved, turned and headed off at a trot.
My ambivalence about the situation is evident: I call it “my money.” Those two five dollar bills still feel as if they are my money. My stuff. My blessing.
My faith tells me that money – and all my blessings – are God’s. I receive them to use generously.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I should squander money, waste it, invest it poorly. It’s even more important to be a good manager if it is God’s and not mine.
Still, part of me thinks George was working last Friday. An unconventional job, but working. Who am I to say the worker does not deserve his feed? Or his $13 room? Or even a drink?
In any case, I’m not responsible for what George does. I’m responsible for what I do. I know I make mistakes with what I give away. But, I’d rather err on the side of generosity most days. Because, every day, God treats me with way more generosity than I deserve.