Sometimes what looks like giving really is getting, but it's hard to convince other people of that. It's equally hard to convince YOURSELF.
I've had several instances of this in my life. One was our adoption of our goddaughter. One of these was the homeless lady I started calling the Lucky Lady. When I see her walking around the Farmer's Market these days, she is buying vegetables instead of panhandling, and the last time we saw her she was doing something very ordinary to anyone who is not homeless: drinking a cup of take out coffee and chatting with a friend. I like to think that I had a very small part in her rehabilitation.
More obvious ones were helping to feed 800 homeless people Thanksgiving dinner at our church. In my dairy about feeding the homeless, I wrote: "While drifting off to sleep that night, I reflected that religions have so many 'rules' about what you should and shouldn't do to make yourself what might be called 'holy,' but the reality is that feeding the homeless is probably about the closest that any of us come to that. Thus it was a real privilege to be allowed to do it. If anyone praises me for what I did, I'm going to remember that."
Signing books for disabled Vets in Texas was another rare chance to do something good. I wrote that this opportunity, too, was a privilege and I mentioned that "the radio personality Don Imus singlehandedly brought in $400,000. Since Imus has gotten in hot water for some of his remarks recently, it was yet another reminder to me that deeds count so much more than words."
Some recent news has kept us away from church for awhile: the idea that Pope Benedict (who is an educated man and knows better) stated in Africa that condoms "cause AIDS." His reinstatement of a holocaust-denying bishop (although he later said that HE did not personally deny that 6 million Jews were assassinated by the Nazis). The more recent news that schools in Ireland for orphaned children, which were run by the Catholic Church, systematically abused children in horrific ways, some of which were sexual and others which were just plain sadistic.
I mentioned this during one of our weekly subscriber chats, and someone said to me: "Anne, don't let anyone keep you from the Light."
I thought, "That's a very wise statement." I often think that during these Wednesday computer chats, Whitley and I are giving people information, but I GOT something very important from that person.
So we did go to church this morning, and the sermon was given by the pastors of our "sister church" in Kenya, who were pleading for funds to repair their school so it wouldn't have to close. The priest who spoke described how he had grown up in Rwanda during the time when the Hutus were killing the Tutsis. He mentioned that every single member of his family had been killed, some of them by other family members.
He's the only one in his family left alive, yet he's not bitter. He obviously decided that hate would destroy him, so he decided to become a priest, so he could talk about forgiveness and reconciliation. I admire some, but not all, other religions, and a few versions of Christianity seem to filled with too much hate to be genuine, but despite all that, it seems to me that Christianity is the one religion in the world that stresses forgiveness, which, despite all the dogma that is often misused, is why it is valuable and has lasted.
God Himself (or Herself) even changes as we move from the Old Testament to the new. The God of the Old Testament is punishing and imperious, demanding to be worshipped. The New Testament god, as interpreted by Jesus, loves us and will give us what we need.
We wrote out a check for the Kenya school, but while we were giving, I reflected on how much I had GOTTEN from his talk. It made me realize how easily I can easily be filled with anger and bitterness over so much less.
I wasn't ashamed of myself (I'm not that bad), but it did make me realize that I have an opportunity to deal with some of the people who are hassling me right now in a different way. My actions may not change them (in fact, they probably won't), but they'll make ME a better person, and that's the only thing I can control.
NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.