They were there to gather donations to fill the shelves of a local food pantry. The boys, dressed in their troop uniforms, were greeting customers as they entered the grocery store. Each patron received a flyer detailing what items were needed and then were sent on their way with a smile.
Many gave generously that day. They maneuvered the aisles, their thoughts on those less fortunate, on those who were in need of even the most basic of supplies. One cart after another was filled. Cars were loaded with bright yellow shopping bags. Many made cash donations. It was a good day…a very good day. The kind of day that renews your hope in humanity a bit.
How encouraging it was to see a group of young men working to benefit others, working to meet the tangible needs of those they may never meet face to face, may never speak to, may never know. It was good to see their excitement, good to see their zeal, good to see their hard work. It was also good to see the generosity of the local people. They freely gave. Some gave much, others gave little, but all gave.
That evening, my husband, who was assisting the troop that day, told me about an interesting encounter that he had earlier that day. A middle-aged man had approached him during the course of the food drive. After asking how much longer the boys would be working, the man made this comment:
“I will be back in just a bit. I have some expired food at home that I’ve been looking to get rid of. I’ll bring it back to donate”
My first instinct was to ask my husband if he was kidding. He’s known to be a jokester. But no sly smile crossed his face; no elfish grin emerged. He was serious.
In all honesty, I instantly judged, criticized, and condemned this unknown man. How insensitive and callous he was. How blind he was to the needs of others. He saw nothing wrong with tossing his leftovers, his expired goods, his garbage bound food, to those who had the simplest yet greatest need. Why not just go into the store and pick up a can of vegetables instead? Why not simply walk past the collection sight like many others did that day? Why would he offer less than his best?
One year has come and gone. And as the troop prepares for this weekend’s food drive, I am reminded of that man. With knee jerk reactions and condemnation put aside, I turned my gaze inward. Was I any different than that man? Was I willing to give less than my best to others? I didn’t have to ponder for long.
I remembered the time that I was rummaging through my boys old clothes. I wanted to clear out everything that no longer fit or was in poor condition. I systematically sorted the clothes into two piles. One pile contained clothing that was still in good condition; I had planned to pass these pieces along to a friend. The second pile was filled with everything else: stains, tears, wear, fraying. I must admit that I bagged up that second pile of clothes and dumped them into a collection box. I never gave thought to the young man that would be wearing that stained shirt or the woman who would be modeling those frayed pants, or the child who would be dressed in rags. I gave them my garbage and never thought otherwise.
I was no different than that man.
Imagine if I had simply gone to the store and picked up a new piece of clothing…tags still on. It wouldn’t need to be fancy or expensive. I’m a great bargain shopper. Surely I could have picked up something nice for merely a few dollars. I’m sure we could have forgone a bag of chips that week or a cup of coffee. Imagine the reaction of some one in need, someone who likely never has worn a new piece of clothing. Imagine them, imagine the look on their face and the swell in their heart. I wish I could have retrieved my less than best bag and substituted it with one new item. I can’t look back, but I can look ahead.
Keeping the best for ourselves is nothing short of selfish and completely out of step with how the Lord wants us to live our lives. The Lord who gives abundantly, who showers us with blessing upon blessing, who provides for each and every need, has not created us to live selfish, self-centered lives:
- And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16
- My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
- …not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:4
- Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17
- The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9
- Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13
- You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’ Numbers 18:29
Give of your best and nothing less.