At the end of an active, outdoorsy weekend in the colorful autumn delight of Southern Indiana, it was time to divide the campground clean-up tasks before we drove back to our college campuses. A fidgety leader with a chore list stood meekly in front of a group of 60 campers. People reluctantly raised their hands to volunteer to do various tasks: sweep the cabins, do the dishes, collect name tags, and so on. As they volunteered, they shuffled off in hoodies and pj bottoms to get it over with.
When “wash the bathrooms” was announced, the coolest kid of all of us – the one who could pound the volleyball inside the 10-foot line, the one who played bass, the one who’s hair always looked just right — that guy — jumped out of his chair waving his hand frantically, saying, “Oo oh. Ooooh! Pick me, pick me!” I thought he was joking but he took the job, and did it at the same time that the rest of us did our safer, less disgusting tasks.
Someone who was as confused by his behavior as I asked him about it later. He casually said, “What? No big deal. It is just good to take the lowest things.”
That ridiculous display of eagerness to do a menial job has carried me through a few gross bathroom cleanings in my own house. It is this generosity that doesn’t count the cost which makes light work of the cross.
I think Jesus must have an easier avenue to our hearts when we are eagerly generous like that “cool kid.” When my own kids join me voluntarily by the kitchen sink to wash dishes, we become a team. I feel grateful and we enjoy each other’s company. At other times, I ask them to clean up the house with me, but after every little completed task, they ask if it is enough.
In both instances, the kids are working, but only in one do we share joy and unity. Generosity makes the difference. Oh how I personally would love to convert my small change doled out frugally to the Lord into big bills which yield togetherness!
My father used to call it alacrity (a·lac·ri·ty: NOUN – brisk and cheerful readiness). He would ask us kids to do something (like brush our teeth or get ready for bed) and then chase us up the stairs making funny monster sounds and rapidly clapping his hands on his thighs with each step he took. If we got caught, he would tickle us and we would screech with laughter, learning to go faster next time.
God, too, teases us into this cheerful, quick service. His requests are not for himself, but for our benefit and virtue, where we share in his life. Fr. Thomas Dubay, writing in Fire Within, points out that heroic generosity is linked with deep contemplative prayer; they mutually fuel each other. Not surprisingly, intimate communion with God and willing heroic virtue seem to be found in just about every canonized saint. God offers the path to a fiery prayer life to you and me as well, every time we are challenged with the opportunity to be generous — the laundry again or a child throwing a temper tantrum or (fill in your own blank).
Some of my friends who are morning people practice what St. Josemaría calls the “heroic moment.” When the alarm clock goes off they get up right away. No snooze, no wallowing, just up. Their quickness to say “yes” in the morning makes it much more attainable to say “yes” throughout the day, perhaps because they have made it a habit. For you and me, the heroic moment could be some other quick “yes” during the day (quickly closing an app instead of lingering, taking out the trash, going out into the snow to get the paper instead of waiting for someone else to do it).
God willing, this heroic practice of generosity will carry over to times when we are more severely tested and we will quickly follow the Lord – experiencing communion rather than drudgery. In this act of friendship with the Lord, we can remember that no matter how generous we are, the Lord will out do us in his own generosity to us!
What are some of the ways you find an opportunity to be generous with the Lord?
Copyright 2018 Carrie Soukup