My children have entirely way too many books (and stuffed animals and toys and crayons and clothes). And so, recently in an effort to clean their rooms and teach them a lesson I challenged them to find all the books they weren’t going to read again and put them in a pile so we could donate them to kids who don’t have any. I explained to them that when you have a lot it’s always nice to help people who only have a little.
When I left the room I expected to return to a short pile of pathetic looking books – books without their covers and with pages torn out, drawn on, and dog-eared. I figured they’d each grab one or two of these old books, throw it in the pile and call it a day. I was amazed to discover the opposite. Not only did they create a large pile of books, but also their pile contained some of their best, newest and most favorite stories.
Then, I panicked a little bit.
I said to my daughters who are four and six years old, “Hey guys, good work here but are you sure these are the books you want to give away? You love these stories. These are your newest books. These are the nicest books you have. Do you want to go through the pile again and put some of the other ones in instead? Like, look at this one. [I grabbed a book with half a cover.] Why don’t we give this one away instead?” I kept going through their books to find the worst ones and suggested they rethink their pile to give away.
And then, they taught me a lesson.
“Daddy, we figured the kids wouldn’t want the old books. They’d want the nice ones. These are our favorite books and that’s why we want to give them to the kids who don’t have any. We thought it’d be best to give the best ones.”
As adults sometimes a lot of our charity involves giving off the bottom and not the top. We let go of the stuff we don’t need. We’re willing to donate things that are tired, used, and unnecessary. That was my mindset as I challenged my kids to clean their room: pile up all the old stuff and give it to someone else. But imagine a world in which we gave the way my kids did (note: on that occasion. They’re also pretty good about hoarding, ripping toys from each other’s hands and not wanting to share at all). Imagine a world where everybody gave his or her best to one another. Imagine waking up and thinking: what do I cherish and how can I share that with someone who needs it today?
We have received abundantly. Let us give abundantly. Before you leave your house again take a minute to gather up your best. That might mean actual stuff or it could mean your best attitude, grace, and love. Bring your best out into the world and share it with those who need it. Let’s face it: we often find ourselves surrounded by too much and there are also those around us who have too little. Let’s ignore the scarcity-plagued thinking that encourages us to give our leftovers and instead lavishly share love. That, friends, is the way God gives to us and it is the way God calls us to give to one another. In the words of a six-year-old, “It is best to give our best.” Or as St. Paul reminds us, “Remember, Jesus said: it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35b).”
We all have too much of something. It might be actual stuff or it could just be time or wisdom. May you find a way to share the best of your too much with those who have too little.