It would not be usual for me to cite a Bible quotation but this one
It is more blessed to give than to receive
is a perfectly fine example of a way to live one’s life.
That said, in our world where the accumulation of stuff is a definition of success it has perhaps become somewhat clichéd, perhaps with an element of external validation, of self-praise even.
Now I’ll not knock those who give generously to good causes.
I do believe, in many ways it is easier to give than to receive.
We are a wealthy country in a wealthy part of the globe. We have surpluses everywhere. We even define poverty in ways that are relative rather than absolute. I don’t say this is wrong and indeed narrowing the gaps between haves and have nots will help reduce the tensions in society but it does mean we can be a generous nation. To ourselves and, within bounds, to others.
But this passing around of stuff, this dipping into the pocket and handing over of change, texting a number while sat in front of the TV, filling a tin, signing a direct debit, supplying a stunning range of charity shops with, yes, stuff…. It does good, of course and it makes us feel good without major effort. We might expect a little congratulation too, a little gratitude from the recipients or those who are collecting on their behalf.
But we are poor in one way. We are poor in time. We have temporal poverty in the West. We press and hustle and race and don’t stop to smell anything. We are a nation of sweeping gestures and missed small moments.
You read so many people who are crying out for more time, trying to craft some space in their lives. When did the expression ‘quality time’ creep into our vocabulary? He/she wants to spend more quality time with his/her children/spouse/friends/family. What about good old fashioned unconditioned, unqualified time? Rubbish time. Time filled with nothing but your presence. Just you and them and, well, nothing else.
Giving time. That’s what’s a truly blessed gift these days. That’s what people are really grateful for. That’s a poverty gap we need to fill in our lives. I’m grateful for the broken down bus or the cancelled train that means I have to stand and wait and stare and think and wonder. I’m grateful when I leave the house to walk the dog and can stand in the park and notice a tree I’ve not seen before even though it’s been there for 70 years and me for 25. I grateful for days of waiting in for the gas man so I can reflect. Snow days when I’m trapped. I’m delighted when I sit with my wife, no words needed, just sharing the mutual gift of company. And I’m grateful to be able to help with a group of special needs youngsters because they just accept me and my time as a natural thing that benefits both of us without side.
We need to embrace delay and cherish boredom. Be grateful when your plans fail and you are left floundering. Because in those moments of frustration are moments recaptured from the tyranny of time. Treasure every opportunity to just be.