I was attending a choir rehearsal one evening when a young man came in and started fiddling with brochures by the door. He looked a bit disheveled, but was fairly young, looked reasonably fit, in a well worn track suit and very old shoes. We were on coffee break so it wasn’t the music that attracted him in. The local AA have their meetings in the same church hall and their members often turn up at odd times so I went over to ask if he needed any help.
He said “I’m here to learn about love.”
Hmm, thought I, that’s a kind of broad statement and we’ve only got 5 minutes before we start singing again.
“We’re not members of the church in this group. We just sing Gospel music.” I said.
“Oh,” he answered, “well then can I go around the room and ask people for money? Coz I need some.”
Now the truth comes out.
“No I’m afraid that would not be cool right now.” I said.
“Who do you think you are?”
Woh, the reaction was rehearsed.
“You call yourselves Christians and you won’t give me anything. How charitable is that?”
“We’re not all Christians in this group actually. We just come together because we love the music.”
That was ignored.
“I get this at every church. Last one I went to I asked for help and the guy there, he was priest or something, he just threw me out with nothing. He gave me nothing! You call yourselves Christians. Doesn’t the bible teach you have give to other people?”
I needed to get off the back foot and turn this around quickly.
“I think the Bible saying you’re thinking of is ‘Give and you shall receive.’” I said.
“Yes that’s the one, so you should give me what I want.” he said.
“But, what have you given lately?” I said.
He said “I don’t have anything to give. Look at me. I got nothing. I have no job. No clothes. I live in a drop in centre. I got nothing to give.”
“That’s not true,” I said “You’ve got lots to give but what you just gave me was bad vibes.”
He looked stumped.
“You were trying to make me feel guilty.”
“No I wasn’t,” he said “I just need help and you should be helping me.”
I said “There you go again. You’re trying to make me feel guilty. Guilty feels bad to me and when I feel bad I don’t feel like giving good in return.”
“Is this how you spend your days?” I said “Going around making people feel bad?”
Now he was looking at his feet with a grumpy look on his face.
“You’ve got so much to give and it doesn’t have to be money, y’know.” I said, “You’ve got your smile – that’s a good place to start. You don’t have a job so you’ve got all the time in the world to help others. You can give encouragement, compliments, support, make someone laugh. You can give your knowledge on things you know that someone else doesn’t know. You can cheer someone on. Tidy up somewhere. There’s so much you can give.”
He’s still not talking so I continue.
“When you give, then you will receive, like the bible says.”
“You mean they’ll give me money?” he asked.
“Maybe,” I answered, “but a lot of the time it’ll come back to you in more indirect ways. You’ll give to this person and someone else will give you something back. You’ll help someone and a great opportunity will show up. That’s the fun of giving. You never quite know how it’ll come back, but it always does.”
Coffee break was over. Everyone was getting ready to start again. The man mumbled something I couldn’t hear and left quickly. I’m not sure if it sunk in. Maybe it will take some time. Maybe it won’t sink in at all. Who knows?
He got his lesson on love whether he wanted it or not though. Haha
It’s always worth remembering next time you feel you’re owed something, whether it’s money, love, a job or great health. Or when you’re feeling powerless and victimised. Ask yourself what you’re giving the world. If you have money, you can give money. If you have time, you can give time. And giving a smile or a kind word costs nothing but benefits the receiver – and you – more than you can imagine.