Giving AND Living Generously

I recently stumbled upon the following reflection on giving and living generously from Jay Link. Mr Link shares:

"I was ready to board a plane to return home from a business trip. I was first in line and was looking forward to getting comfortable in my first class seat and then “zoning out” on the flight home. (I often get upgraded for free.)

Just prior to our boarding, a very heavy, crippled man had been escorted down the jetway in his wheelchair to board the plane. So I waited patiently for the call for first class to board. However, just as they began to announce the first class boarding, another guy cuts right in front of me and hands the attendant his boarding pass. His rude manner and obviously arrogant attitude irritated me.

As we got to the bottom of the jetway, four airline staff were having difficulty getting the heavy, crippled man out of his wheelchair and into the airline wheelchair needed to get him on the plane. This delay was causing a back up in the jetway. No one was able to board because they were right in front of the plane door. So here I am standing and stewing over this rude guy who cut in front of me while I was waiting to get on the plane. I stood there a little impatiently watching the airline employees working futilely to get this crippled man into the airline wheelchair.

Then, the bomb fell. The guy who cut in front of me calls out to the flight crew, “Hey, let me help you.” So he drops his bags and hurries over to them and helps get the man into the plane wheelchair. I was so ashamed. I was standing there just like the line-cutter was, but the thought never even crossed my mind to offer any help. Of all the people standing there watching this happen, this guy who I was convinced was so selfish and full of himself was the one who volunteered to help.

Unfortunately, the humiliation wasn’t over. When they finally get the man in the wheelchair and through the plane door, Mr. Helpful then says to the airline staff. “Let me go back and get his bag for you.” He comes back off the plane, grabs the man’s bag, which by the way, is right at my feet and takes it back into the plane to him. Yet, another missed opportunity for me to live generously.

By this point I am feeling very convicted about my lack of generosity. Interestingly enough, it turns out the line-cutter is sitting right across the aisle from me in first class. I told him I appreciated his willingness to help the crippled man. He smiled and said, “It wasn’t anything.” To him, it wasn’t anything, but to me it proved that of the two of us, I was the one who was selfish and full of myself, not him.

But God still wasn’t finished rocking my generosity world. As I am finally relaxing in my first class aisle seat, the passengers in economy start filing past me. I hear a woman immediately behind me ask this soldier who is standing right next to me, “Soldier, what seat are you in?” He says, “21B.” “One of the dreaded middle seats in the back,” I thought. She then says to him, “Would you like to sit here?” The soldier hesitated, but the woman insisted that he take her first class seat and she would go back and sit in his middle economy seat.

Humbled again! This is all happening right next to me. Know that I deeply appreciate what our military does for us as a country and for me as one of its citizens. I have even thanked soldiers for their service on many occasions. But the thought of offering this soldier my first class seat and taking a middle seat in economy class on a packed plane was another indicator of just how limited my generosity really is.

I have been mulling these experiences over in my mind for a few weeks and I wanted to share with you the main lesson that I think God has taught me through this. The lesson is this: I can be generous in how I give without being generous in how I live. Conversely, I have also learned that a person who lives generously always gives generously.

In other words, we may be willing to be extremely generous in giving what we want to give where we want to give it. But with what we don’t want to give we can actually find ourselves being just as selfish and tight-fisted as the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge. Living generously, not giving generously needs to be our goal."

We talk a lot about generous giving, but I must admit I hadn't thought that much about generous living. After reading Mr. Link's reflection and thinking about the opportunities we have every day to live generously, I worry that I, like Mr. Link, am missing plenty of chances. So I made my first attempt to change that last night when I arrived at our favorite Italian place to pick up a pizza. Rather than take the parking space closest to the restaurant, I intentionally headed for the back of the lot, hoping that a mother or father with small kids, an older person, or someone who had a bad day and needed the convenience would get the closer spot. It's not the best I can do to live generously, but it's a tiny start.