My father was a man who instilled deep values in all of his children. Not only was he a deeply committed religious man, devoted to God,country and family, but he was also devoted to any person who needed his help. Long before the movie Pay it Forward, my father had already taught us to be kind and attentive to the needs of others, expecting nothing in return. My father had a saying, taken from the Bible that expressed his views on helping others- Matthew 5:41:
“Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two”.
See, my father was not just about preaching from the pulpit; he was about living it, and holding his children to the same standard. If we seemed unmotivated to help others, he would explain to us that ” Go”- is an action word. He explained that sitting around waiting for someone else to do things that needed to be done would accomplish nothing. He expected my brothers to offer, and commit to mow the lawns of widows and the elderly. He expected my sister and I to make cookies, pies and cakes to give to the less fortunate children. He expected us to hold doors open for everyone, and enter the building last. He expected us to pull grass from every grave in the church cemetery. He expected us to do our chores without grumbling or complaining. He explained to us that “God loves a cheerful giver”.
He explained to us that “Giving is not always about money. Giving is condition of the heart, not the sound of shaken coins. Consider the widows mite. It was her spirit of giving, not the mite that mattered.”
As we enter into this holiday season of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I hope we can all have that same spirit of giving. The spirit of helping those in need, by being kind to one another and by remembering to use verbs- action words…”go and, do”. As we scurry about trying to accomplish an impossible list of things that HAVE to be done, it is easy to forget about those around us. It is so easy to become agitated and angry at the people in Walmart who shove and push to grab the last Cabbage Patch Doll. It is so easy to scream at the slow driver in front of us. It’s much easier to rant and rave and shove back than it is to be kind, considerate and “giving.”
I remember as a young child, we were on our way to a revival meeting that my father was the guest preacher for the Sunday service., Driving along,we saw a broken down car on the side of the road. Without hesitation,my father pulled over and started to get out of the car. My mother said “You can not be late , you best hurry.” The young female seemed thankful to see a man with a car load of children offering to help her. I don’t recall now what was wrong with the car, but I know he fixed it enough for her to drive to the closest gas station. We followed her all the way to the gas station, insuring her safe arrival.
We arrived at the church, met in the parking lot by a frantic deacon, who ushered my father in a side door quickly.As we entered the back door and took our seat, we realized the service was underway, and we, the visiting minister’s family were late. My father took to the pulpit right on cue.
“Please excuse myself and my family for being tardy today,” he began. ” There is more to preaching than an open Book and pulpit.”This morning my family and I practiced our action words, “go and do”….You see congregation, God loves a cheerful giver… .. giving is not always about money. It is not the sound of shaken coins…. It is about the spirit of giving. God loves a cheerful giver…if we see someone in need, we should offer to help them, going the extra mile…..” Ahh, the extra mile sermon again.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to go the extra mile, just as God commanded and my father insisted. I must say that the gift of walking the extra mile is indeed the most rewarding thing any person could do, ever. Each time I do a “little something”extra for someone, or pass up the opportunity to chop someone’s head off at Walmart, I smile as I hear my father saying, “‘ giving is a condition of the heart…not the sound of shaken coins…………………………”