At my first communion celebration, my grandfather presented me with a piggy bank. All the kids in my family received a piggy bank at this Roman Catholic milestone of their life, however mine was different. Everyone else got a homemade piggy bank. My grandfather was a woodworker and made several piggy banks for my cousins and my brother. However, after completing mine, it was dropped and broke. So I got a store-bought piggy bank. It came filled with $2 bills, bicentennial quarters, and Kennedy half-dollars. There were also some fives, tens, and twenties in there. Over the years I added and subtracted money and today it sits in my son's room, collecting change and the occasional dollar bill.
My grandfather was always very generous, especially in the eyes of a 7-real old. Every time my grand parents visited, my parents would tell him not to give us kids any money. Every time my grand parents visited, my grandfather would give us a handshake with a $20 bill pressed to the contour of his palm. In a kind of "give me some skin" motion, he would transfer said bill into our hand. At Easter, he made sure every kid found at least one egg with $20 in it, and a dozen more with smaller bills and change.
While it was awesome that I was on the receiving end of his generosity, what I see when I think back to those times is the joy that it brought my grandfather when I would find that egg, or peek into the slit of the piggy bank to find the outlines of bills and the glimmer of light shining off the precious metals, or run to my room to put my folded up $20 bill in my velcro wallet before my parents could try to make me give it back.
Poppy Joe was the child of immigrants who knew the value of hard work and even harder faith. He lost his father around the same age I was when I got that piggy bank. He and his brothers had to grow up at an early age and take on the responsibility of providing for the family. He worked all kinds of odd jobs around New York City, loading trucks, making hats, whatever it took to make a few bucks. He started his own business, built it from nothing, and passed it on to his oldest son, my uncle.
He was a young man in his twenties when the depression hit. It would have been completely understandable if he saved every dollar he made. No one would question him for wanting a full bank account in case the unthinkable happened again. However, his peace and contentment didn't come from knowing that he had enough, it came from knowing that he had the ability to bless others.
I think that's why he always had more to give.
For all their faults, by father and my grandfather taught me the value of generosity through their actions. They were always willing to give, and though they found it hard to say the words, "I love you," their actions made the statement louder than words ever could.
Though there are things I find difficult to trust God for, I have always maintained that he is a generous God. Perhaps my experience with my father and grandfather helped in that perspective. Or, perhaps his generosity is so great, that it is hard not to see it every day.
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Let us take some time today to recognize all that God has done for us.
If the only thing God every did for us was the gift of salvation that he freely offers to everyone, wouldn't that be more than enough? Yet, he continually pours out his love onto us; providing our needs, protecting us from the enemy, and blessing us without expectation of anything in return.
Shouldn't that be our example of how to love one another? To love without expectation of anything in return? To bless others? To give more?
If you are reading this, you have been blessed. You have more than a large portion of the population of this planet. You have something to give. You have money, or time, or skills that you can use to bless others. I challenge you to test God on this. Give more than you are comfortable giving and see what he does in your life.
Be like my grandfather, Poppy Joe. Instead of storing up, pour it out. Find peace and contentment in knowing that you have blessed someone else. Do that, and you are someone whom God can equip to do even more.
Gather with us this Sunday as we continue in our Love Does series.