Once a month I get a reminder email from my girlfriend Maureen. It’s time for soup. Maureen and Rhonda are my two closest friends. We are all so different. We have known each other since grade five when I moved to town, but we have been in and out of each other’s lives for fifty years. Those that know us can see how different we are and maybe wonder what connects us. Well, we know, and it is difficult to explain. One thing we truly share was our religious upbringings. Me the Lutheran, who sees her relationship with God as personal, wonderful and very forgiving. And yet supplemented with a little old time pagan styles. Rhonda, the Catholic, who has moved away from the church and it’s controlling nature but has gained an even greater personal relationship with God. She is more spiritual and ever worldly. Maureen was raised in the Alliance church and is still an active member. She is the queen of kindness. We share our love of God but beyond that we get together and laugh, cry, share, support, feed our bodies, souls and minds. Like all old Grandma’s we enjoy a little wine and a little weed. We are very inclusive.
Maureen helps the world. One of her friends once said she could get people to do anything. She gathers volunteers to do many, many projects to help so many people who pass through her life. She is the ultimate lover of people. And we her willing helpers. The monthly email is sent to a number of ladies who all volunteer to make a small batch of soup. It takes about an hour and costs about $15. One gal supplies home-made bread. It isn’t a sacrifice. It is all part of an effort of another group who patrols the city streets in order to help those living outdoors. Shelters are numerous but for some there is no trust. This group goes to them and brings our hot soup along. Maureen gathers all of the soup together and delivers it. She also makes four or five batches herself. We are a small cog in this gigantic wheel of people who are trying to reach those less fortunate. Maureen is our leader. And she is a small cog in the group we do it for. Most of us are unaware of the workings. We do what she asks and move forward in our life. Maureen moves on to her next group of do-gooders. Helping is her thing. I don’t even know if she could tell you why she does what she does. One more thing we three gals agree on though is that whatever we have is from God. We are stewards of his. All that he gives us can be taken away at any moment. We are blessed and we must share our gifts from God. I tell you, the more generous I was in my life, the more I seemed to get in return. Even if you don’t believe in God, there is something in the world about reciprocity. A give and take. Nothing is meant to be hoarded. People like Maureen do what they do for the love of their fellow man. They see a need and they try to fill it. It is all done with no expectations and no need for praise.
Years ago I read a news article in my home city about an attempted murder. A man was shot as he left his home. He was described in the news as a very caring and giving philanthropist. He was also part of an organization who were being sued many times over for cheating investors and in time there was also criminal a investigation. Jail time was eventually bestowed on the founder. However, all that was reported in the news was his donations of massive amounts of money. When you dig deeper, it seems there were those who believed it was their money he was giving away. And not without applause and accolades. Someone I know once told me about all of the good things they do and the large sums of money they give to various charities. Of course I was told they do it all anonymously. I wondered to myself if they knew the meaning of the word anonymous. After all, their name was attached to buildings and also the focus of news articles. It leads one to wonder if their generosity is truly altruistic.
Now I try hard not to judge others. And yet… I just did. Why did I do that? I somewhat politely shit on someone else’s generosity after bragging about the one pot of soup I donate in each month. Yeah, I could have told the world about Maureen’s good works without sharing my own small involvement. Is it jealousy? That was something my daughter Drew brought up to me recently. She told me a story about the youngest Jenner girl giving money to a go-fund-me account and the world trashed her because they felt it wasn’t enough. After all, in their minds, she has so much. And yet, how much did these other people give? Anything? We often hear others talk about “the rich” people. But its all relative. It seems as if the current definition of the rich is anyone who has more than you have. Where did all of this come from though? Well I remember a story from the Bible that I heard about in Sunday school as a small child. It is meant to teach us a lesson, but let’s take a closer look shall we. The story comes from the book of Mark Chapter twelve verse’s 41 to 44. To paraphrase, Jesus is sitting outside the temple watching people put money into the offering. Rich men were throwing in large sums but an old widow put in two small coins. Jesus told his disciples that her gift was greater because she gave all she had. Whereas the rich would not feel the loss of the money they gave as it was a very small amount of their riches.
I am a Christian so of course I heard this story. But it also one that everyone has heard in some way or another I believe because even today this is how most people think. It all comes down to our perception of sacrifice. So many people in the world think that because they have so little it truly is a sacrifice to give to others. That my friends is a decision we make in our lives. Can I afford to take something away from my own family to help another. Even if it means me and mine will then not have enough. It has nothing to do with the rest of the world and there is certainly no shame in weighing the pro’s and con’s of every financial decision we make. The problem is when we feel we shouldn’t have to help others because we feel others should be doing it. They have more. They won’t miss it. They are rich! When we reach this point in the argument we are now making a judgment call on the lives and actions of others. You know tour heart. Your life. Your circumstances. Do you really know others? Do you? Do we know this Jenner girl? I don’t. Maybe her Momma knows why she gave whatever she gave. Maybe they talked about it. She didn’t tell me. I do believe she has way more money than I have but I don’t know. I have no idea what my friends who live next door and across the street give and we are close friends. We share a lot. Why do we feel entitled to shame others when they give but not how we think they should? I think my daughter was right. Jealousy. I know Jesus was trying to make a point about the old widow’s sacrifice. He certainly never would have meant for us to use his words to shit on the others. Let me tell you, there are a lot of people in this world who missed that point altogether. I think a lot of them would call themselves Christians.
I dated a young man for many years when I was very young. In time something happened to break my trust. There were fights, tears, anger. Also lots of drugs and alcohol. Abusive behaviour. We tried more than once. Then went our separate ways. He died in his mid fourties and I felt the need to go to the funeral. Closure I guess. His family was not a church going bunch but they had his funeral in my home church. As is the case, there were many words of praise for this fellow. I sat and stewed in my seat. This was not the angry abusive person I knew. I approached the Pastor afterwards. I knew her well. I asked about her sermon. It appeared they knew each other. They had developed a relationship. Weekly coffees and chats. Yes, he had turned his life around. He helped others. Young people. He was some kind of great guy. I left feeling confused. Not many people really understood what I had gone through with him. I decided I needed to forgive him for my own sake. To release the anger. One story was told that he never went through a Tim Horton’s drive thru without paying for the car behind him. I decided then and there to take over that role. So I started the practice. To continue on in his name. Yeah here I am bragging about my good heart. My bad. Trust me there is a point. He died 16 years ago and I continued the practice for many years without question. When my husband died a lot of painful shit happens. You change. I was going through the Timmy’s drive thru and I didn’t think to pay for the car behind me. Later I realized I hadn’t done it in awhile. I think I tried to rationalize that my loss of my husband messed me up. But the real answer was so simple I can’t believe it took so many years to see it. It started as a tribute to him. The old boyfriend. The coffee thing. It started as a way to forgive him. It continued as a habit. It became a feel good thing for me. In actuality it wasn’t for him at all. Nor was it for the people behind me. It was for my ego. I was so jealous of him that I took over his thing. He hurt me so much and people praised him. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy. He was the bad person. Yeah he changed his ways. But I was the victim. Love me. Not him. It is pretty hard to look at yourself in the mirror and admit you are jealous of a man whose demons were so great he hurt the one person who loved him deeply. And when she left, he spent his whole remaining years trying to make things right with the world. My God. I was pathetic.
No. I wasn’t. I was a sad young girl in a grown woman’s body who had never really tried to forgive a broken young man. I have learned a lot of lessons in my life and most of the time it is when I stop looking out into the world and start looking into my own heart. They say we hurt ourselves more than anyone else in the world can. With our self doubt and negative inner dialogue. Yet it is also much too easy to blame others for the ills of the world. People hate the mega rich. Well stop buying from Amazon. Microsoft. Don’t use twitter. Or buy a Tesla. Oh you can’t do that? Stop whining. You think the tax laws are too lax? Get involved. DO something. Stop complaining. You think the rich should give according to your feelings? How would you like it if someone told you what to do with your money? I know I’d tell them to piss off. Giving to people at Tim Horton’s wasn’t a total waste of money. Over 13 years I may have put a smile on some faces. Hopefully their good feelings trickled out into the world. Look at me patting myself on the back again. Probably therapy would have been cheaper and whole lot faster. In the end the lesson was learned. I need to look a little closer into the reasons I do what I do. Going forward it is important that I do what I do for love. I will continue to make soup. For Maureen. Because I love her and she loves mankind. And I hope with all my heart that the next time I start to feel that green monster envy crawl up in my chest I will stop the judgment of those who advertise their giving. Perhaps they are working through past demons. Maybe I should send them love from my heart so it doesn’t take them thirteen years. Or perhaps I will just send them a like!