A modern day parable goes like this:
One day a man came home to find a note pinned to his front door. It read “Dear John, I will be coming for supper this evening. From God.”
At first he thought it was a joke, then decided to prepare a meal in case someone came. So he went out to the shops to buy groceries and on the way home a person, obviously in need, stood in his path and asked for a bit of help. John paused and thought for a moment, then handed over the bag of food to the person and went on home, thinking to himself he would prepare a simple meal with whatever was in the fridge. When he got home there was another note on the front door. It read “Dear John, thanks for supper. From God.”
It has been reported that even in this time of economic downturn, most Canadians are giving the same or more to charities with average donations per individual increasing (Source: Leger Marketing Survey, October 2011).
The report said, “When Canadians see that economic conditions are more uncertain, they do realize that it’s the most vulnerable individuals and families in our communities that will suffer the most from lost employment and decreased government support.”
Another finding is that, contrary to popular belief, individuals — not corporations — give most. Eighty per cent of the dollars raised in Canada come from individuals. Finally, it was reported that the holidays tend to prompt giving to the less fortunate. End-of-year giving accounts for approximately one-quarter of all annual contributions, according to StatsCan.
Jesus once told his followers that upon his return there will be blessing and an eternal inheritance for those who met his needs.
“When I was hungry you gave me food,” he will say; “thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
The blessed will then ask with surprise when it was that they had done those things, and Jesus will respond, “I tell you, just as you did it to any member of my family, you did it to me.”
This is a time of year when we are bombarded with many requests to give to programs which assist the disadvantaged. Each and every one is worthy of support and year by year the evidence is that our population gives generously. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed with requests.
May I make a few practical suggestions?
1. Budget your charitable donations as a percentage of your resources each year, and take them “off the top” so they can be regularly given and not left to compete with other spontaneous expenses.
2. Do not try to respond to every request you receive. Pick some and become a regular and dependable source of support for them. Keep some money aside for spontaneous gifts when unexpected requests arise.
3. Do not focus only on the holiday season. Spread your giving through the year so that there is consistency for you, the giver, and for recipients.
We may wonder if and how our relatively small contributions will make any difference. However, pooled with those of 80 per cent of Canadians, our gifts become part of a much bigger whole.
God has blessed us with the resources we control and we are called to give from them as we are able.
May we always be mindful of Jesus’ admonition: “When you did it to one of those … you did it to me.”
Rev. Alan Naylor is at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Qualicum Beach.