“But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 3 & 4
The virtue of charity is about more than writing a check to a dachshund rescue group. As I wished friends at church a “Happy Mother’s Day” this year, I realized that this too was a form of charity and a gift worth giving. Because I gave from my poverty — my lack of children — the gift felt more sacrificial than inking over alms in the form of cash, so that’s why I almost overlooked it as a practice of virtue.
Why are these gifts so hard to give? Maybe it’s because we look for immediate reward from people rather than God; maybe it’s because we get tied up in knots trying to achieve social justice. A Chinese proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Charity is the initial gift of fish, while social justice changes the man’s behavior, to cure the problem requiring charity in the first place. When I first grappled with the fact that I was childless, all I wanted was social justice. If I could just change society’s perception of my status, I would not have to be so understanding, so charitable, in the face of such monumental ignorance and insensitivity. But in a child-centric culture, I was in over my head. Opportunities for social justice seemed to be around every corner and it frustrated me as I tried to correct problems that sometimes didn’t even exist! I eventually learned that charity is something I could give until I had the opportunity to cure the problem at its root.
Nowadays, when I enter a troubling situation where I do not have the capacity or motivation to teach, I give an inward glance to the Lord, secretly communicating my need for grace in dealing with the person who has just crossed a mental boundary. Sometimes my gift of charity is humor, like when I brush off an insensitive comment with a joke. Sometimes the gift is sacrificial, like when I wish someone a “Happy Mother’s Day”. Finding balance between charitable and teachable moments is worth the struggle we go through to find it. The reward that comes from God alone is priceless.
Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago. Her favorite pet rescue group is Midwest Dachshund Rescue. You can find them at: www.mwdr.org.
Editor’s Note: This will be Dorothy’s last “With Eyes of Faith…” column. Please join me in thanking her for sharing her words these past months and wishing her well on her new writing ventures. Thanks Dorothy.