Counting my Blessings
As many of you know, I have been searching for a new job since the end of August. It has been and continues to be, a challenge. There are so many bumps in the road! I do have a solid prospect which I will know more about next week, but there are no guarantees. And so, I continue to pray. Each night I thank God for the gifts of the day. The blessings. Michael’s unwavering support. The challenges that are making me stronger. The friends who have been endless in their love and support. Life is good and I am keeping my faith over my fear. But, this is a lousy time of year to be unemployed.
To Give…or Not
This is a season of giving and I feel unequipped to give. With respect to my family, I cannot go out and fill my actual or virtual shopping cart with frivolous gifts that will make their lives merry and bright. I am missing all of my “final chances” to get that amazing deal by clicking here. All of the exclusive gifts for spending over $75 have slipped away. And we all know I’m not at the Toyota-thon or Happy Honda Days or the BMW Holiday Event. But to be honest, all of that is of little consequence to me. Sure, I love to give gifts. It’s fun to surprise people with that thing they mentioned a few months ago when they didn’t think I was paying attention. However, my people, my tribe all have what they need and don’t expect or even want more stuff.
What is bothering me is my inability to give back.
Typically I spend Thanksgiving weekend online giving goats to Heifer International families or buying gifts from the Heifer Marketplace. We help kids experiencing food insecurity with donations to Blessings In A Backpack and the Connecticut Food Bank. We give more to our church, St. Peter’s Episcopal in Milford, CT. We make our annual contribution to NPR and to the Beth-El Center. To be certain, we don’t give extravagantly, (remember how I have spent my career in non-profits making no profits? This is one of those times that comes into play.) but Michael and I give what we can and feel blessed to do so.
But this year we don’t have the money to give. There isn’t anything to share. No additional donations can be made. No extra dollars can be used to buy more than a small book or two for the giving tree. No goats.
I’ve been brooding about this tightening of our belt for weeks now and got pretty mopey about it. I complained to Michael. I whined to friends. I almost wrote an email to Heifer to apologize, for crying out loud!
A New Path
But then, as he does, God showed me a new path.
In Luke 10:25-27 we are told that in order to inherit eternal life we must “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, [and] your neighbor as yourself.” These verses are followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan. As a quick refresher, it is written that a man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was beaten by robbers he encountered. After he was left to suffer, half-dead, a priest, and then later a Levite, passed by him and did nothing. Then a Samaritan came to him and proceeded to take care of the man, to help him heal from his near-death beating.
Now the road from Jerusalem to Jericho is approximately 18 miles long and moves from a semi-dry environment to desert. It is narrow and isolated. The dangers on the road, both environmental and from bandits and robbers, were quite real. The lack of water, people and nearby resources made it even worse. So how come, with all of those known factors would the priest and the Levite simply move over and keep on walking? Why would they leave this man to die instead of helping him? Why did they not help their neighbor? And more to the point, how many people have I encountered, and ignored, on my own Jericho Road?
Give the Christmas Gift of Seeing
The Holy Spirit has awakened me to stepping up my game when it comes to loving my neighbor as myself. And what better time to get comfortable with doing uncomfortable things than during the long days of Advent. While I await the light that is sure to arrive in the birth of Jesus, I have much work to do in the darkness.
Many of my neighbors travel narrow, twisting roads. They are isolated, not by geography, but by the lack of human compassion and engagement. They don’t want Amazon gift cards. They want to be seen. Fed with grace. Listened to with compassion. They want me to walk on their side of the street.
So while these long days persist and the darkness is longer than the light, I will try and give a new kind of gift. The kind that reminds people they are made in God’s image and are loved exactly as they are. I’m sure it won’t be easy and I will most certainly mess it up when fear or nerves take over. It is hard to approach somebody I don’t know and can feel really awkward. It’s also challenging to offer to help a person I’ve never connected with before. But something tells me that the conversations and support will feed me as much, if not more than, I am able to feed the neighbors I meet on Jericho Road.
If you feel called, I invite you to do the same and wish you well on your journey. As always, if you would like to share your experience, please do so in the comments below.