Before I start, (...wait. That doesn't make sense. By saying that, I've already started!)
Before I get to the heart of the matter, I'd like to say that nobody likes to be told their doing something wrong, especially in regards to how they're living, and nobody particularly enjoys that church sermon that comes once each year about giving more money. This is not that, but it is that. This is just what I'm learning and hope to share with you, but I also hope it makes you just uncomfortable enough to really consider its broader implications.
Although I don't know much of anything about Pope Francis, I do know that he has made it a point to be a "voice for the poor."
“Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor.” (Pope Francis, Address to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 6/14/13)
“The times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a
scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so
much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable
that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children
without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”
(Pope Francis, Meeting with Students of Jesuit Schools—Q&A, 6/7/13)
I took a class in college called Contemporary Christian Thought in which we discussed various Christian theologies. We were tasked with choosing one theology, reading a book written by the theology's main proponents, and writing a report about the author's efficacy in getting his/her ideas across. I chose Latin American liberation theology and the book Where is God?: Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope by Jon Sobrino. Reading this book and learning about liberation theology was the first time that I had ever felt punched in the gut when thinking about the poor. I did not fully agree with many things Sobrino wrote in his book, but I did take this away:
The path to
salvation, according to Sobrino, is to become like the poor who, in turn, are
like Christ, and the way to achieve this is through solidarity. Without offering a formal definition, he
expresses that solidarity creates justice by rebuilding people and later
rebuilding through acts of charity.
Sobrino’s vision of
solidarity is more than an ethical obligation but rather comes from knowing
that we are doing the most fundamental human act, growing in an intimate
relationship with other people. This
definition of solidarity accurately shows that being honest with reality,
allowing the world to affect us, is necessary and appropriate to produce
humanizing behaviors. Through communion,
love, and a close relationship with others who are suffering, we can see how
the world treats them and what must be done to end this suffering.
All of this is to say that in my time here, I am learning to give generously and receive humbly. Giving can be difficult. I should
know. I can be a cheapskate. Somewhere in my life, I learned to save as
much as possible. I don't make many impulsive buys, and I take
advantage of freebies whenever I can. I'm the guy who picks up pennies
on the ground (which, by the way, is ridiculous. Take that spare change
with you, toss it in a jar, and watch it add up.) So many people have
less than me. That's almost not worth it to even mention because no duh! It's easy to put the less fortunate out of our minds because then
we won't feel the pressure to help out when all we really want to do
is bustle along with our iPads, Snuggies, and comfortable lives. "I
worked for this! I earned it! I deserve this!" The reality is that we
don't deserve any of this. Every bit of this life you and I are living
is a gift that God granted us. God gave us more than we need and a
million ways to share it. Yes, I find giving (esp. financial giving)
tough. However, I do have plenty of free time to give, and I can *ahem* go volunteer somewhere.
In regards to receiving humbly, I have been on the receiving end of some exceptionally thoughtful
giving, and I have felt how it is to receive. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's embarrassing. And sometimes it's just unnecessary. No matter the case, if someone has offered a gift or to give you a lift or to cover your shift (hehe! rhymes...), just humbly accept, say thank you, and, like the Kevin Spacey film says, Pay It Forward.