Lately, my heart has been overwhelmed by the generosity of others.
Like my friend’s mother in Oklahoma (whom I have never met) who, not only sends a generous donation for our CFF Fundraiser, but also a $100 bill and the most thoughtful letter I have ever read with the request that my husband and I use that money specifically for a special date night…
Or the friend at church whom I have only recently met who offers to bring over dinner on the evening of our girls’ clinic visits…
Or the barista at the coffee shop we frequent who donates her days worth of tips to CF research on our behalf…
Or the dance mom who sees me sitting in my van while my baby sleeps in the back seat and offers to bring me a coffee…
Or the photographer, and mother of 4, who gives up her entire day, drives over an hour to do 20 photo sessions and commits to giving 100% of her earnings for the day to our CFF fundraiser…
Or the preschool dad who hears our story and decides he will join Team CF and fund raise in our girls’ honor as he prepares to run in the Chicago Marathon.
Or the many who brought meals after our baby was born and those who sent letters and messages and texts and prayers and books with encouraging scriptures after she was diagnosed with CF…
And the countless , family members, friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends who have donated their hard earned money to support an organization they have likely never heard, all because they are compassionate, generous people who genuinely care about us.
This position of receiving others’ generosity is an uncomfortable place for me to be in. I would prefer to be on the giving end.
And when I say “thank you”, it never feels like enough. It is so hard to express my deep gratitude with as much meaning as I feel in my heart. The words I say or kind gestures I do in return seem to fall short. And because I am terrible at sending out personal thank you notes, I worry they may think I didn’t notice or that I didn’t really care. My lack of being able to follow through with that task is certainly in no way a reflection of lack-luster appreciation. I do have this deep desire to do something extra nice for them or tell them how much their generosity meant to me. Sometimes I get the opportunity to do that and sometimes I don’t. But I just hope that that they really know how much their generosity has moved me, has encouraged me, and deepened my love for them and others. I really hope that they can feel it.
Being on the receiving end so much lately has left me to ponder the act of giving on a deeper level. I believe that, generally speaking, the giver doesn’t usually do acts of generosity to get something in return. The reward they get is from the satisfaction they feel in their heart. The feeling that they did something really good for another. That soul-filling, joy provoking, tender feeling that outweighs any material reward.
Once I handed a homeless man a warm biscuit, a coffee, and a $20 bill. The token of what I did for him still felt small considering the magnitude of what he was going through. I couldn’t give him shelter or rebuild the life he lost. I couldn’t listen to his story and offer him encouragement in that moment. But I could give him a warm meal and a little help. It didn’t feel like enough and I knew it wouldn’t stretch very far, but it still felt good and I felt a sense of God telling me Thank You. Thank you dear child for doing my work. That was God helping that man that day…He just used me to do it. I didn’t need a thank you note from him or anything else in return. The sincerity in his eyes when he told me thank you was more than enough. As I drove away, my eyes filled with tears and I prayed for that man. I knew it was the Spirit of the Lord whispering to my heart to help him that day. And it was the Spirit that filled my heart with thanks and gladness after I drove away. It reminded me that sometimes you get to see the fruit of your generosity and sometimes you just help in small ways without knowing if it will even make a difference it all.
I believe giving money to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation can feel much the same way. To some it may seem like throwing money into a pit. You don’t even know what they are using the money for, you don’t see it actually helping anyone, and what difference could your $20 make anyway? But it does matter. Each dollar adds up and little by little, those dollars provide funding to research new treatments, as well as improve the care and support for those living with CF. I believe God uses each and every one of us to do His work here on Earth. Yes, we can pray. We can ask Him to take it away instantly. But it may not happen just like that. He may be using you and me and each scientist and researcher, donor and prayer warrior to piece together this mystery.
Perhaps the biggest, most profound example in my life of God working through small acts of generosity came 6 years ago while I was on a mission trip to Haiti following the devastating earthquake. I went thinking I could really make a difference. But as soon as my feet hit that Haitian soil and I saw the devastation around me, the capacity of what I could do with my human hands and feet suddenly felt so small and insignificant. Some things I could really fix, like giving a course of medications to treat a child with malaria, or one with an ear or skin infection. But when I handed a weeks worth of vitamins to children and adults with serious malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, or ten Tylenol tablets to a man suffering from daily, post-concussive headaches from a crushing head injury, it made me feel like I wasn’t doing anything to actually help them. By the end of the week, even though I was grateful for the privilege to help those affected by this overwhelming devastation and I did feel like our team made a difference in a lot of ways, I still left feeling more discouraged and heart broken for these people than when I came. We had all made generous sacrifices to help them but it felt like the problem was too great for any of it to matter.
Then God revealed something really important to me that week that I carry with me still. Taking care of those people is actually His job. He is ultimately the one who could heal those people, not me. He just let me be a part of it. He used my hands and feet to do the work on Earth that He could do straight from Heaven if He chose to. And I can’t tell you how thankful I am that He allowed me the chance to be a part of that and share my love with others. The opportunities I had there likely blessed me even more than it did those I went to help! It opened my eyes to things I had never seen before, it changed my soul, expanded my heart, grew my love for humanity, and molded me into a better person. And it grew me closer to God.
I know it is hard to compare something of that magnitude to giving monetarily to a charitable organization. But I really believe God uses that in the same way. He uses us, His creation, to do His work and He uses each act of generosity for a bigger purpose. I have often pondered why He doesn’t just do the work himself. He is God after all. With a single breath, he has the power to part the sea, calm the storm, and heal the sick. He could even cure CF in the blink of an eye if he chose to! My human mind is too small to fully understand why the world operates the way it does and why God doesn’t just “fix” every broken thing. But I am thankful that He is in charge and not me. I am grateful that He lets me help Him by doing good things for others because it makes my heart feel good to do that.
As much as I love it when God uses me to help others, I am grateful that He uses others to do good things for me too. Not only does it make their heart feel good and deepens our relationship, but it also allows them the opportunity to be a part of the work God is doing through us, and His answer to prayers sent up for us.
So to all of those who have given to help us in some way, whether it was sending us a card or words of encouragement, bringing a meal, praying, or donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, God is using you to answer our prayers. You are the ones God is using to bolster our spirits when we are feeling low, it is your help that rejuvenates us when we are feeling tired, and your money could even be the way God is answering our prayer for a cure. I hope you know that we love you and thank God for you. My words of gratitude will never feel like enough. But I pray that God sends his Spirit to whisper endearing words into your heart, making you feel even more loved and appreciated for your sacrificial love and generosity.
And in case, simpler says it better, Thank You.