Several weeks ago CBS Evening News aired a story about an Ohio boy, who decided to give away a $20 bill. He found the money in a Cracker Barrel parking lot on his way into eat. Once inside his thoughts about how to spend the money turned from himself to the soldier he passed. Young Miles had lost his own father, who was also in the Army, and wanted to express his gratitude for the fellow soldier by paying it forward with his parking lot money.
His simple expression of generosity—and the impact it had on the soldier was inspiring. Lt. Col. Daley has already given away the $20 and intends to give much more. The boy touched a chord in Daley which enriched Daley, inspired him, and continues to reverberate in his life.
What caused this young boy to give money away instead of buying himself a video game? He does not know. What he does know is how good it made him feel. It did the same for Daley. It did the same for others whose stories were shared on local radio station KLRC as part of their pay it forward segments. It is the principle of generosity rather than reciprocity or mutual exchange at work.
The Ohio youngster was not wealthy. His giving is not uncommon, however, according to The Atlantic. The magazine recently looked at one of the most “confounding, facts of charity in America”: People who can’t really afford to give, typically donate more than those who can afford to. In recent years, the top 20% of America’s wealthiest donated 1.3% of their incomes to charity, while the bottom 20% gave 3.2% of theirs. Christ’s teaching that there is more blessing in giving than receiving has empirical backing as well as spiritual and emotional evidence.
This Christmas give from the desire to bless. It doesn’t matter whether they appreciate it or not. You receive the gift of giving. Ask the young man from Ohio.
Nicholas is another youngster with much to teach about the blessing of giving. His parents died when he was young and left him not only a rich inheritance, but also a generous disposition to help the poor. His devotion to God led him into the ministry in Myrna, a town located in Turkey. His life several centuries earlier is rich with the accounts of his generous acts of kindness.
Nicholas responded to a famine by going down to the docks and asking some ships bound for Alexandria, North Africa, to unload some of their grain to help his people. He promised the sailors that whatever they gave, God would restore it to them before they reached their destination. On their return trip, the sailors reported that this godly man’s word had been fulfilled!
Eventually he became a bishop. It is this last period of his life from which he is most notably remembered. A man went bankrupt, losing everything. The ruthless creditors not only took the nobleman’s property, but threatened to take his daughters as well. The father’s only hope was to marry off his daughters before the creditors could take them, thereby saving them from a disgraceful life of prostitution in white slavery. The only problem was he did not have money for the girls’ dowries, which were necessary for them to marry.
Bishop Nicholas heard of this dilemma and threw a bag of gold in the family’s window at night to save the eldest daughter from the fate of an outcast. The news spread across town and she was soon married. Shortly thereafter, he did the same thing, rescuing the second daughter. Finally, when he threw the bag of gold in to save the third daughter, the father ran outside and caught him. Bishop Nicholas, who wanted the glory to go to God alone, made the father swear with an oath not to reveal where the gifts came from while he was living.
Whether yesteryear or this year, generosity blesses both the recipient and the giver. The return is usually greater when given to someone without thought of return or who does not have the means to return the favor to the same degree. Christmas is a wonderful time of year for generosity.