Conventional giving, no — radical giving, yes

Published 4:02 pm Friday, December 6, 2013

On numerous occasions I have asked individuals what they love most about Bainbridge and after the usual answers of, “We are all family and everyone knows everyone,” comes an answer that is unique to this city.
They tell me that Bainbridge is a city of giving and involvement. I have picked  up on that going to charity events almost weekly to cover for the paper, but during the week of Thanksgiving, I truly began to understand the truth in Bainbridge’s trait of being generous.
I got the call from Memorial Manor that an anonymous donor had gone into Flowers by Cooper and ordered a Christmas tree arrangement for the Manor.
When I went to the hospital to see what the fuss was about, I was blown away. I expected the tree to be typical, junky, and ordinary — who would give anything more to an assisted living home where the patients just get excited about anything out of the norm? I expected a dollar store tree, dollar store colored lights and some paper ornaments made from a kindergarten class project.
I was so thrilled to find I was wrong.
The donor had ordered a tree worth more than an estimated $1,000 with custom ornaments fit for the pages of Southern Living. And while the residents were as excited as they would have been for any tree, it was the staff members who seemed the most touched. They cried and told me they believed there were still good people in the world. Walking by the tree during work made them feel appreciated, like someone noticed them, for all the bedpans they change, catheters they put in and hands they hold.
One of the most challenging verses in the Bible is Luke 14:12-14
“When you give a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you.”
Ouch. For so long I have given my leftovers when I think of giving. I donate my old clothes, out of style to Goodwill, when the Bible calls me to go to nice stores and buy a young girl an entirely new wardrobe. I throw homeless men on the street $10 “so they can go buy some dinner,” when I could be, literally, throwing them a banquet.
What if Bainbridge, “the generous city,” would rethink giving this holiday season?
Instead of galas with all the usual, key players, we invited residents from the poorest, worst parts of the city, clothed them in the finest gowns and served them flank steak with pilaf rather than throwing them holiday diners in dingy soup kitchens?
What if we treated the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind like royalty, like they were bringing big industry to the county and donating thousands to our buildings? What would Bainbridge be like if we took giving to the next level, giving all we had to the poor and hurting, and not just what we have leftover in our accounts after we bought our children their iPads and Xboxes?
What if we treated those in need as we would treat Jesus if he showed up at our door, like Jesus told us in Matthew 25:35-45?
He said when we refuse to help the hungry, thirsty, naked, we are actually refusing to help Jesus himself. We are not loving others as we love him.
Thankfully, there are so many in this city living out this call to truly give all they have. There are people all over this community who realize lukewarm, half-hearted donations that are drafted out of bank accounts once a month, “because it’s the right thing to do,” are showing lukewarm love towards God.
To the anonymous giver, the churches in the community, family friends, and excellent organizations, thank you inspiring me to give all I have, not just my tithed 10 percent.
That woman who gave not just any tree, but the nicest tree in town as a donation, inspired all of the staff members at the Manor to do the same. She certainly inspired me to go beyond the norm. She challenged what I thought I was going to give this season and opened my eyes to people who are in need of love.

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