End with less than you started.
That’s the plan for this week.
Less money, less stuff, less something.
While this exercise has the great side effect of begin generous and hopeful that generosity is directed at people in need those aren’t the final goals. At time being generous is all we’re trying to do. Just find ways to make generosity a part of our lives. Sometimes we are finding ways to connect with the marginalized and use our resources to support those who need support.
But this is actually about getting our heads in the right space.
All month we are going to be looking at challenges that centre our priorities. Activities that slowly break down the hold that things in our lives have on us. This week it’s our possessions. It’s our accumulation. It’s our stuff.
Our stuff has a hold on must of us that we don’t even notice. We accumulate and gain as much as we can. It’s money, it’s clothes, it’s whatever.
Our stuff is used to define us. Our stuff gives us security. Our stuff gives us status.
This week we take control of our stuff and say “what do I need and what can I bless someone with.”
I was reminded this week why I like computers. Writing by hand takes a loooooong time!
I didn’t get to one a day. I did write a few. One a day was an ambitious goal.
But I was good. I’m excited to hear back, but more than that I’m hoping people felt loved. I got a few cards this week at work. Some were standard business one but some were honest and real. Hand written. With an honest hope for good to happen in my life because these people know me and care for me.
One was a thank you for all the work I’d done this year. I don’t often feel like people get or understand the work that I do and so there aren’t a lot of people showing appreciation to me. They appreciate the centre and the staff they know but not always me.
So these small gestures where I’m seen, where my hand in their life is noticed means a lot.
I hope my words mean as much to the people I wrote to.
I was going to write about technology but it’s been done so much it’s not interesting anymore.
Fact is we live in this technological world and have for some time.
But the longer technology is so ingrained in our lives the more meaningful connection without technology will become. The effort to make it happen means something.
This week we are challenged to put in some effort for those who have had some meaning in our lives.
Each day write a letter or a note. Doesn’t have to be long but it does have to be handwritten, awful penmanship and all. Write something each day to a person who has made an impact on your life. So often those who change us have no idea they’ve done it.
Maybe it was at a time when we couldn’t articulate the impact or it seemed to us the impact was so obvious we didn’t need to mention it.
Either way, every day this week share the meaning someone has had in your life with them.
Connect in a way that these days shows real care an intent. Your effort will show your sincerity.
Life gets in the way. Or I suppose obstacles get in the way of the life you want.
This week it was sickness.
Sarah has been sick for the past few days. Nothing major but enough that she sat on a couch for two days. Now if you know Sarah you’ll understand that Sarah simply doesn’t sit. She is the energizer bunny incarnate.
She just keeps going and going and going.
It’s tiring just to watch.
So I stepped into her shoes the past few days.
She is amazing, I don’t know how she gets it all done. I did not get it all done.
But that’s just life right?
Things pop up, life is chaotic at best often.
I missed a few days of writing. I missed a few days of work.
I didn’t connect this week like I had planned. There was time. I’d do it later in the week i said. But there wasn’t time later. I’ll get a great chance to connect with some of my work mates today and at our work Christmas party tonight. But that’s only once. I wanted more for this week.
But I didn’t put in the effort when the time was there. There were chances on Monday and Tuesday that I didn’t take.
I put it off.
Then life happened.
Then nothing happened because I didn’t do it.
I suppose my reflection on this week is the continuing realization that this stuff doesn’t’ just happen. That we need to make an effort. Purpose ourselves to love and be the people we are made to be.
Compassionate living is an amazing life. It’s full and deep, but it takes commitment and in this situation commitment is just another word for action.
Churches can be really insular places.
It’s counter intuitive to say the least. Churches should be one of the most loving, welcoming places in the world. But we all know that often that isn’t’ the case. There are so many reasons why church isn’t welcoming and we’re not going to fix them here. We’re not addressing structure here.
We’re addressing you.
There’s a strong perception with people I know who don’t attend church that churches are harsh spaces filled with judgment and cliques.
This week we’re going to work on that.
This week talk to a co-worker, neighbour, etc. you’ve never had a real conversation with before. Try to speak with them more than once. Go outside the norm of your relationships. Go outside the church.
You’d be surprised how many people don’t know a Christian or even worse don’t know a Christian they like. The only Christians they know are ones they want nothing to do with and we know all the reasons why.
No more cliques, no more inward focus, no more rampant judgement.
Love and grace will be our mark.
We will be transparent and honest.
We aren’t perfect and we won’t pretend to be, or have the answer to make them perfect.
We will connect with people where they are.
People will know us by our love.
So go connect in some new relationships. It’s very possible you’re the first loving Christian they’ve ever meet.
I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it a bunch more, the life of compassion is simple, not easy but simple.
We can do so much more in our quiet presence, being present and attentive to someone than we can with our words. That was the idea this week, just let someone vent and rant.
It’s so simple to be loving, caring and compassionate.
Just shut up and listen.
Simple, just not easy.
I like to talk.
I often talk too much.
I have opinions.
I tend to share them too much.
I consider myself helpful.
I often try to fix things when that’s not really the point.
I consider myself intelligent.
I try to be right a lot more than I love.
This week let the people in your life rant and vent all they need to. No fixing or sorting. No opinions or talking. No attempts to render meaning where love is all that’s needed.
Shhhhh…we’re just listening this time.
Things always get strange when money comes into it. I don`t know why but it just does.
The idea for this week was to take the money you would spend on yourself and spend it on others. I did that but it was far from a perfect science.
Ultimately I found that I’m still fairly selfish. I’m happy to be generous with others and to give, but when it comes to money I still want for myself.
Here’s what I mean.
There were all kinds of opportunities to be generous and I took a bunch of them. No problem. A couple times I thought, I’m going to get a coffee, then didn’t and spent the money on someone else. Good it worked.
But when I checked my wallet at the end of the week I spent more than I usually do. Great right? More generous than I usually would be.
Well, sort of.
I just spent more. I was generous with other people and gave money away. But in the end I probably only didn’t spend the money on myself twice. 2 coffee’s I didn’t get. In all the other instances I spent the money I wanted to spend on myself and then also made a point of being generous too.
Kind of an odd response, especially considering it was my idea.
I suppose it’s a good first step. I was more generous with the people I my life than I normally would be. But I still felt like I needed to spend money on myself. I couldn’t just for one week leave myself totally out of it and be entirely generous.
I have no idea if it’s good or bad but it’s something for me to think and reflect on. If in the end I only had $10.00 would it go to me or someone else? Or would I try to rationalize why I should split it?
I don’t know.
So we’ll call this week a successful failure. I did it and I was more generous, but I’m not sure I ended up in the space or mindset I was hoping for. I’m going to ponder it some more and hope that I can really start to put others before my need for coffee or whatever else I bought. It’s not about spending more but how I spent what I have.
So many baby steps.
This week I’m asking you to take the money you usually spend on yourself (buying coffee, eating out, new shirt, whatever) and spend or give it to someone. Ideally not a random act of kindness sort of thing but someone you’re in relationship with.
Random acts of kindness are fine, but I’m asking you to leverage this generosity for greater depth and love.
You know someone who’s struggling to cover bills? Help them out. Cover their cell bill this week.
Someone at work having a terrible day? Take them out for lunch, your treat.
You see how this requires relationship.
How awkward and strange to just tell someone you want to cover their phone bill when you don’t know them? You’d need to know them, talk often and understand their life. Know that bills are hard and with Christmas coming up things will be even tighter.
Maybe you say “Hey, I know things have been tough. I got this gift card so you can get your kids something cool for Christmas.”
Or just drop off a coffee on someone’s desk and say “looks like you needed one.”
Spend you actual real money on someone else this week.
And no it’s not a rule. You can buy yourself coffee too or eat out with your family. But if you spend $200.00 on yourself and family this week with dinners out and Starbucks, then pass along a $1.50 Tim Horton’s to a person at work, you’re missing the point.
A lot of these challenges are things I’ve tried before. Stuff my wife and I have done to try in some small way to get better a living this other centred life. Practical things we can do as a start.
While this time wasn’t the first time I’d tried this challenge it was different.
This week we were trying to give a compliment once a day. As I noted on Monday, it’s more than a little sad that this works as a challenge for week. It’s sad on a societal level but more so, and I didn’t touch on this on Monday, sad that it works on a personal level.
It’s a sober reminder of how far I have to go when it comes to living a live marked my love and grace.
It’s sad for those of us who identify as Christians that this could be considered a challenge. That edifying and building up those in our lives isn’t a calling card of who we are.
But as I said earlier, this time was different.
It wasn’t weird.
Every other time I’d done this it was weird. Weird for me and I think at least unexpected for the people I was complimenting. It wasn’t how they saw me.
Not this time.
This time it felt natural. This time it wasn’t a struggle. This time it happened without so much effort and intention to seek it out. I’d reflect on the challenge and think if I’d gotten there and find there were more than just the one compliment I was challenged to pass along.
I often talk about how hard reflection is. We see our brokenness and shortcomings. We see all the gaps and how far we are form where we want to be.
But every now and again it’s invigorating. Every now and again it’s exciting to step back and see that all the hard work and effort and intent have led to some actually change in how I see and approach the world and how people in my world see and expect me to be.
If this is truly a journey then we should see change and growth.
Who knows, maybe all this effort might actually help me be the person I hoped I’d be.