On Giving What I Can Instead of How I Want

Last Tuesday, a lackadaisical snow storm left us with a few inches of white powdery stuff on the ground.  It was pretty while it lasted but then the temperature dropped ridiculously low and all that snow went and froze into slick patches of ice.  A few days later, when the kids looked out the window and saw our neighbor's driveway still covered from the storm, Patrick and Mary begged me to go shovel it.

I told them no, but they insisted.

I'm not sure why, but they were dead set on shoveling the neighbor out.

"No one has cleared their driveway yet, Mom!  They need help.  Please, let us go over there?" Patrick said.

I thought of all the reasons they shouldn't:

*the neighbor might be working and they may annoy her,

*they might not do a nice job,

*they will get bored and quit mid attempt, and/or

*they will make more of a mess. 

I refused multiple times--convinced they would only hurt the situation and definitely not help it--but each time one of them countered my argument, showing a true desire to help someone else.  It dawned on me while we discussed the issue that I was squelching their desire to do a good thing. 

"If you want to go over there, you cannot disturb her," I said.  "You just shovel the driveway quietly and make sure you finish the job.  You may not take any money for the work.  If you want to do a good deed for someone, do it well."

They yelped with joy in agreement and after they acquired jackets, hats, and gloves to help them survive the frozen tundra, they darted out the door, grabbing shovels off the porch as they went.

I positioned myself in front of the window, with the heater blowing warm air at my feet, and watched them work.  They quickly figured out a system:  Patrick would try to break up the sheet of ice underneath the thin layer of snow and Mary would use as much of her weight to shovel it away.

It was a slow, tedious process.  The patches of ice were so thick and deep, it was almost impossible for them to lift any snow.

Pound, shovel.  Pound, shovel.  Pound, shovel.  Rinse and repeat without any progress.

The snow shoveling task they had embraced was nearly an impossible feat for people of their size.

But for over an hour--while wind whipped at their heads and their little hands went numb--they tried to move that icy snow.

While I stood watching those ruddy faced kids pitch snow over their shoulders,  I had a change of heart.

I realized it didn't matter if the kids didn't do a good job.

I realized it didn't matter that they might actually be making the neighbor's driveway worse.

I realized it didn't matter that there was absolutely no way they were going to be finish shoveling the neighbor's entire driveway.

What mattered is that they thought of someone other than themselves and then did something to try to make that person's life easier.  What mattered is they tried to do a hard thing, a task they weren't really up to completing, and they tried to the best of their ability.

Who cared if their work was nowhere next to perfect?

Ummm, I did.  At first, anyway.

Right before Christmas, a friend of mine had a baby.  It was during the first week of our Christmas break and also during the time when everyone in my house was sick with the flu.  Time passed over the holiday and everyday I thought about my friend and her sweet, new baby and I longed to do something for her.

I had picked up an outfit for the baby and I had a box of chocolate to drop off to her, but I never brought it over because I didn't think my gift was enough.  I had intended to babysit her other children for an afternoon as well as make her a meal.   When I couldn't offer what I wanted, I talked myself out of bringing over the other small token because I didn't think it was a good enough gift.

I didn't think it was enough.

As I watched my kids use metal shovels to break up chunks of ice, I thought about my friend and other times where I've put conditions around giving. 

How many times have I talked myself out of doing the little I can because I don't think what I have to give is good enough?

When I read about a needy family online or a a donation site to help a sick child with many hospital bills, I often don't click on the donation button because I'm not convicted my ten dollars can really make a difference.  If I can't make an entire meal for a new mom because I'm overwhelmed with feeding my own family, I decide the homemade bread with a new bottle of hand lotion isn't enough either.  Even at Christmas time, I am inconsistent with adopting one family because I think about all the other families who will get nothing.

So I don't even bother with the small ways I can help because I think it's not enough.

I'm not like the widow who gave her mite, even though it was her last coin.  I struggle to give even out of my abundance!

What I remembered as I watched my kids shovel snow, though, is that giving isn't just about the recipient.

Giving changes the


as well and the gift doesn't have to be perfect.  It has to be from the heart.  The day I stood in the window and saw my children bent over their shovels, their faces red from the cold, I was proud of how they gave--with abundance and with love.

I hope to follow their example.

"Some give what they have and get back much more.  Others don't give what they have and end up poor."  Proverbs 11:24