As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
Growing up in the rural South, I already knew it to be true. Generosity is not dependent upon an abundance or determined by a life blessed by circumstance. Instead, I have witnessed time and again that those seemingly with the least have given beyond their means to both friend and stranger. From the outside it makes no sense, borrowing from tomorrow’s need to provide for another’s need today. And yet, this is exactly what Jesus is so poignantly speaking to in this passage.
Recently, while on mission to Haiti, this scripture in countless ways was brought to life. With the young and old alike there was an innate understanding that there was a responsibility beyond oneself. Young children pushing much older ones in wheelchairs, and teenagers caring for their fellow orphaned brothers and sisters as their own. Outside the orphanage in the remote villages, families in need themselves spoke of their “neighbor” who could also use some help.
Bearing food and supplies and with smiles and prayers, we entered small huts and makeshift shelters. Constructed on the sides of mountains and down solitary paths they lived and yet they knew no stranger. No boundaries or obstacles existed in the warmth of their welcome and in the gratitude expressed for our visit. Offering the joy of cuddling newborns and the gleeful excitement of children I could not help but wonder who was really the gifter here.
Blind, thin and of advanced age he beckoned us into his home. Inside a small table, chair and simple bed were all that occupied the mud covered wooden canopy hut. As with many others we visited, the rice, beans and sugar that we carried were the only apparent food around.
“Mesi! (thank you!)”, he exclaimed. “I prayed that you would come, I prayed for your safety and when I heard the helicopter I knew my prayers were answered.” Standing there I could not help but soak in his words, like a downpour of rain upon the dry parched earth that we stood upon.
Through the full-time missionary leading and translating for us, we learned how the last year had treated him. “With the drought, the crops that I had planted amounted to little.” Using his fingers as a guide he had painstakingly planted and hopefully awaited a fruitful bounty. Yet when it did not , rather than store the meager return, he chose to give it to his neighbor’s livestock to keep them from dying.
His selflessness epitomizes a people unbelievably resilient amidst daily unimaginable odds. A people living on land that can truly no longer environmentally support them. Yet, what they offer is generosity of heart and a joy that is presumably limitless. In parting, we were offered his continual prayers that we would return safely to our families and could once again come back to visit. This priceless gift of prayer from a compassionate would be saint most assuredly was heard and will forever be treasured and repaid. Even if it takes a lifetime.
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38