Friday, May 18, 2012

Generosity & Compassion, Part I

Today I find myself in need. My 11-year-old automobile requires $1250.00 worth of repairs. I have applied at all of the usual lending places with the exception of those damnable “payday loan” establishments. (I did that once and will never do so again). So, I have been asking family and friends. Thus far I have raised $300.00 and hope to borrow the remainder before the deadline of the end of May.

This post is not about my need. It is about compassion and generosity. Several of the friends I asked simply do not have the resources to lend to me, However, one who does—even the entire amount—responded with the words: Times are tough for everyone. His words have tumbled around my mind since I heard them:

All of my life I have been generous—generous to an extreme, some folks think. I have given to all who ask, no matter how much I have; often denying myself so I could meet the needs of others.

I do not think that my generosity has been to an extreme. I rather believe that I have not been compassionate and generous enough in my life. There are still people in need. Even in these last years when each month I struggle to put bread on my table, I give whenever and as much as I have.

My sister and sons believe that such giving is crazy—that I am crazy. Some of my friends chide me for giving to those who scam me. But I would rather give to someone who is conning me than withhold what I have from someone with an authentic need. Moreover, perhaps my giving freely has brought about changes in people’s lives, even those who would steal and defraud me.

Many sources have directed and informed my sense of generosity. One, The Bishop’s Candlesticks, which I have used in as an illustration in several sermon is taken from Les Misérables, the novel by French author, Victor Hugo. Specifically, I have learned from a section of the novel that has been called The Bishop's Candlesticks:

  Jean Valjean, having just been released from imprisonment after nineteen years is required to carry a yellow passport that marks him as a prisoner even though he has already paid his debt to society by his time in prison. Rejected by innkeepers, who do not want to take in a convict, Valjean sleeps on the street, which embitters him
  Eventually, the benevolent Bishop Myriel
 of Digne takes him in and gives him shelter. However, in the middle of the night, Valjean steals the bishop’s silver and runs away. 
He is quickly apprehended by the gendarmes and returned to the bishop’s home. Rather than condemning him,  Myriel  rescues him by claiming that the silverware was a gift and  gives him his two silver candlesticks as well, chastising him in front of the police for leaving in such a rush that he forgot the candlesticks, the most valuable pieces.
After the police leave, Bishop Myriel "reminds" Jean Valjean of the "promise," which Valjean has no memory of making, to use the silver and the candlesticks to make an honest man of him. Valjean subsequently does become honest and a pillar of the community in which he settles.

I pray that my generosity and compassion has turned some lives around, even though I have never asked anyone to make a promise to me. I have told folks that at some future date, when they have the resources, that they will share them with others as they have received from me.

This is the first of a two-part blog post. The second will appear on or about Tuesday, May 22nd.

The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. 
The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own. ~  Lao Tzu 


  1. Good post. From the heart. We are in the same boat.


  3. I wish you would write more here. A very good post.

  4. Thanks, folks. I appreciate your feedback.