Monday, November 16, 2009

Observations on Giving

A number of years ago the college Student Association did a food drive for the college food bank. All the clubs went out as groups and sang Christmas carols while collecting food. I went out with the Student Association itself and we started in an older neighbourhood. Most of the people were seniors or students and everyone who was home gave us something.

Someone in the group decided we'd get even more food if we went to one of the ritzier, newer, ie. richer neighbourhoods. Sadly, after a few blocks they began to sing, "You're a mean one Mr. Grinch." At house after house people told us that they had given at the office, or had nothing in the house to give, or even refused to come to the door but stared at us rather hostilely through the window. The students began to ask how people who lived in such big homes could claim they had nothing to give. I suggested that they probably spent beyond their means and that they were house poor. I suggested we return to the poorer neighbourhood but they said, no, let's go to the rich neighbourhood (the old money neighbourhood).

If people were home in that neighbourhood they gave generously but mostly they weren't home. These are people with lots of Christmas commitments and no doubt they were out at some Christmas function while we patiently rang their doorbells.

When we returned to the college and compared the haul the club that had collected the most food was the club that had gone to the poorest neighbourhood in the city. The students didn't understand how this could be so but it struck me as consistent with the pattern in Canada where the poorest province, Newfoundland, gives the most per capita to charity.

Just thinking about this lately as I prepare for all my Christmas programming. My congregations may be aging, and membership may be declining, and they may be the subject of doom and gloom articles in media but they give and they give generously. At this time of year I am so grateful to all the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United churches in South Alberta for the ways they open their hearts and their wallets to care for our students. I am so proud of their deep sense of hospitality and their compassion on stressed out young people. I am so blessed to serve as chaplain to our two campuses and as pastor to one of those small loving congregations.


aaronorear said...

As Sancho Panza says in Don Quixote, "A sweating hand is an open hand. A dry hand is closed."

aaronorear said...

Or was it Karataev, in War & Peace...?