Selfless Giving

Only 15 more days until Easter. How have your Lenten sacrifices been going?

Using this season as a time of reflection has been rewarding and humbling. I have so much to be thankful for and yet give so little. The following is an excerpt from my Lent devotional by Holly McKissick.

Scripture reading from Matthew 25:31-46

It almost hurt to look at Osceola McCarty’s hands, swollen and contorted from arthritis. Her knuckles were huge from seventy-five years of washing other people’s laundry.

She never married. She never had children. She never learned to drive. She never traveled save for one trip to Niagara Falls when she was younger and more adventurous. But it was a short trip, and the sound of that rushing water scared her.

No, she had spent most of her eighty-seven years washing laundry for parties she would never attend, pressing clothes for feasts and fine dinners that she would never see. A dollar-fifty a bundle, two dollars a bundle, maybe two and a quarter.

She scrimped and saved every penny she could. before she died, she gave one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the University of Southern Mississippi. She didn’t want a building named after her or a fine plaque with her name engraved. She didn’t want a statue of her five-foot, one-hundred-pound frame. All she wanted was to see the first person, spared from a lifetime of laundry by her scholarship, walk across the stage and graduate.

She was asked by a reporter. “Ms. McCarty, why didn’t you spend the money on yourself?” She thought about it a little bit, looking down at her hands knotted with pain, and then answered with a smile, “I am spending it on myself.”

Prayer: Sweet Spirit of Life, you have no hands but our hands. May we follow the saints who serve so selflessly and joyfully, all of our days. Amen.

What a precious story of sacrifice and giving. But there is so much to think about here. If I were to give a few hundred thousand dollars to my university would I be able to do so without any recognition? Having my name on the wing of a building ($200,000 isn’t nearly enough to have an entire building named after you) seems a little ostentatious, maybe that would be more appropriate when I am long dead and gone. Dear Husband suggested that I name it after someone else. Hummmm, who should I name the new recital hall at the school of music after? How about this…The Hugs, Kisses and Snot Recital Hall. Maybe not. Anyhoo…To give that much an not receive a thank you from those who benefit from my generosity? I would like to think that I could give without receiving anything in return but honestly I think my pride would get in the way.

My mind turns to Easter and the sacrifice that Christ is preparing to make for us. Does/did Jesus ever expect a “thank you”? Do you think he is hurt when a child of God turns away from the gift of love so freely offered? I’m not sure but I feel like that is part of what unconditional love is, love freely given without need of a thank you or repayment. If we shun his gift I have a feeling that he would say okay, it’s your choice but is always waiting with open arms in case we change our minds.

I wonder what Osceola meant when she answered the reporter that she “did spend it on herself”. Does she mean that seeing someone benefit from her years of hard work was better than anything should could have bought with that money? Maybe she was wise enough to know that she couldn’t take it to the grave with her, all of our earthly possessions pass away. Did she mean that she, herself, was the least of these (vs. 40) and by giving everything away she was continuing the work of the Kingdom of Heaven? Even after Osceola is gone young people who are the least of these will benefit from her selflessness.

My last thought for today is regarding the closing prayer. You have no hands but our hands. Now THAT is a charge to serve.

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