Yesterday after leaving a conference, I climbed into the rental car to make my two hour drive back home. My head was saturated with new information, perspective and a flood of ideas. My brain felt over processed, like hair dried and frizzed from too many chemicals. As I plugged my phone in and tapped on Spotify, I scrolled the music choices for my ride. Nothing was appealing: too perky, too twangy, too loud, too instrumental, too slow.
A random thought went through my head. “Christmas music could be fun.” I was sweating and it’s just October so I argued with myself, but in the end, I went with it. Bing Crosby began to croon and nostalgia started to rub the wrinkles out of my tired, overwrought thinking.
As I drove, drizzle starred the city lights. Night skylines always enchant me.
Just a few miles down the road, I turned off the highway and into a gas station. As I made my way to the door, I caught the eye of a 20-something woman leaned up against the building. In baggy sweatpants and a t-shirt, she seemed small and vulnerable. She caught my gaze and kept it. When I got close enough to her, she quietly asked if I had any spare change or dollars to share. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t,” I stammered and walked on.
The florescent lights were jarring as I pushed open to door into the quick mart.
What was my hesitation in helping this woman? Was it fear for her choices? Or was it inconvenience for me?
I collected what I needed and back out the door I went. She was still there. I leaned against the wall next to her. “What do you need?” She wanted a bus ticket home. There was a long story that went with it. The bus station was much too far to walk. “Let me take you there.”
“Okay. Let me get my husband.”
I was not expecting that.
“Where is he?”
“He’s over there under the bridge.” Before I could say anything, she ran off to get him.
Ugh. What do I do now?
Admittedly, I contemplated pulling away while she was gone. This situation just slid right past inconvenience and straight into dangerous, but I couldn’t leave. I eased into a parking space.
A few minutes later, they were standing beside my car door. She went around to the passenger side and he climbed into the back behind her. I wasn’t nervous or uncomfortable.
They began to give directions to the bus station. It was about five miles from where I’d picked them up. They talked about their kids and their plight.
When we arrived, they offered thank-yous, unloaded and waved goodbye.
Dangerous or not, that decision to make the bus station drive likely did more for me than it did for that couple. My most pure joy comes from serving someone else, and yet, I don’t choose it often enough.
I don’t tell this story because I’m proud of it, just the opposite. I am selfish. I am embarrassed that this was unusual for me. My apathy is thick and I am desensitized.
As I eased away, the sound of Spotify was ironic, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Tammy and Torah don’t have the luxury of plugging in a playlist to drown out their reality.
Do I live a great majority of my life either distracted or in denial of those around me? The noise and drive of do-more, make-more, be-more monopolizes my awareness and my schedule. My tendency to strive drowns out my ability to hear and see those around me in real time. Even in good things, I long to exert control over outcomes and to force change on my own. I rely so heavily on my own strength that often I feel spent and overwhelmed. The real joy- fresh wind- freedom- all come when I am not thinking of myself at all.
The paradox of the Jesus-living is that we find life as we give it away. It’s not a one-time thing. The giving is who we are. It is entwined with our lives, our plans, our choices. We aren’t called to create “margin” to give. We are to give both from our plenty and from our lack. There is always something we can give.
The realization makes me turn down the music.
What are your thoughts? What does it mean to give to live? How are we doing as Jesus-followers in America? What is your struggle in giving?
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