“When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”
The holiday season is a time of increased giving and goodwill among the community. Churches set up angel trees, schools organize coat drives for the homeless, and carolers frequent nursing homes to spread cheer. Families take a few hours on a Saturday to volunteer at a local food pantry, and even the daily commuter reaches for an extra dollar to put in the homeless person’s cup.
Walking through the Back of the Yards last Wednesday, this same spirit of giving was in the air. We began our day visiting a young mother’s home. The apartment was barren, children were sick, and very little food was left in the cupboards. Despite her state of poverty, this mother answered the door to a neighbor begging for a diaper for her toddler. Without calculating the expense, she found her dwindling stash of Pampers and shared with her neighbor.
Later that day, while running into a neighborhood friend in the area, the young mother from the previous encounter followed us to ask for milk and food. As we were discussing our plans to go shopping and fill up her kitchen, our neighborhood friend immediately offered $25 of her food stamps to put towards our purchases. This friend does not have a surplus from which to give, but empathized deeply with the mother’s situation.
In both encounters, these women offered to give out of the philosophy that it mattered more that everyone could survive today, even if tomorrow was put into question. It was less important that they had a secure future themselves than that their neighbors could all make it through the present time.
Although the giving of the two communities seems similar, there is a stark contrast that Luke’s gospel helps us reveal. While everyone should be praised for their giving, who was generous? I know I am personally guilty of putting that old can of soup or that box of off-brand cereal into the food drive bag when I keep for myself the higher quality meals. The food drive is more of an opportunity to clean my pantry than to give a generous donation. The same happens with time; I volunteer with the spare hours I have on the weekend, but it is the first thing crossed off the list when my schedule gets tight. While I give, I often do so from my surplus, when it costs me little.
Not so with the widow of the Gospel; she has neither a house to clean nor an extra savings account from which to give, and yet she does so anyway, placing generosity as a priority in her life. It is out of this priority that our friends in the Back of the Yards acted as well.
Why is there such a difference? What fears and barriers hold us back from acting as the Gospel teaches us? We can all learn from our friends in the Back of the Yards and not let our fears of tomorrow prevent us from giving generously today.
–Megan Sherrier, BSL
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