I have looked at the word "generosity" in many different ways...people being generous with their time in helping someone, an individual giving money to a worthy cause...but in the last month, the word "generosity" has taken on a new meaning for me.
I have worked for a nonprofit for just shy of 4 years. The nonprofit is a Christian social service agency. Since the downturn of the economy in the fall of 2008, we have not only faced soft donations--we have also seen the demand for our services--(rent, utilities, food) has risen exponentially.
My job at this ministry is to promote awareness and to fund-raise. Because my job requires me to be out in the community, I don't often have the opportunity to interact with the people we serve. However, I have been blessed with many God moments. Moments when I know that God has His hand on the angels we serve, and on those who serve them. The past three weeks have been especially challenging emotionally for me. As I was coming and going from our office building to and from appointments, I encountered several sweet people--we call angels, who came to us for help.
My first encounter was a woman in her mid-sixties, casually dressed, well groomed, but had tears in her eyes. She was trying to get into our food pantry. As I passed by I stopped to ask if I could help her. She said she had no food, it was the weekend, and she was very hungry. I told her that our pantry was closed, but took her into our building before we closed for the weekend and made sure she received emergency food for the weekend, and an appointment to see a caseworker so we could find out the other ways she may need to be helped.
When I saw her, I saw my mom. I looked into her eyes and wondered how she got to this place of desperation. I have learned through my years here that everyone has a story.
The following week I ran into a young couple who didn't seem to know where they were going. I asked how I could help direct them on our campus...the wife said that the family was facing eviction. I led them into the building and told them the protocol for receiving services. I left the couple in the lobby of our ministry, in the hands of our awesome staff who would shepherd them through the (at times) daunting process of paperwork and documentation needed in order to receive services.
Later in the week I received a call from a business associate, who told me there was a young woman in need of help and asked that I call her and try to get her in to see a caseworker.
When I called this young woman, through an exhausted, tearful sob she explained to me that she was 21 years old. Her mother died many years ago, and that her father had just died. She is now the guardian of her 16 year old sister, who has a baby and a toddler. There was no money, no life insurance left to them following her father's death. Taking a deep breath, I asked for her name, address and phone number. I told her I would be in prayer for her and that someone from our ministry would be back in touch with her. I hung up the phone and prayed. Having children who are in their early 20's, I couldn't begin to imagine the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, responsibility, not to mention grief this young girl was experiencing. A caseworker called her immediately and reached out to her for not only financial, but (more importantly) spiritual help--because that's our ministry...we look at the person holistically.
The angel I met this week truly cut to the very core of my heart.
I was on my way out to a lunch meeting. As I was descending the stairs, we met. The administrative offices are on the second floor of our building so I assumed she was in the wrong part of the building. I stopped and asked her if she had been helped. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I have no where to go...my mom dropped me off and said I am on my own because I'm 18...I just don't know what I'm going to do!" In crass terms that another social service agency frequently uses to describe an adult "child:" who has been "dumped" they call "a throw away". My heart sank as I put my arm around her and took her to our front office to be helped.
I lift up in prayer these and all of the families that come to us in need asking for God to bring comfort, hope, peace to those in great need. And I ask Him to guide us in our ministry to the poor.
What I have come to realize is that generosity is not giving something you have...BUT rather giving someone something she needs.
No matter where your heart is in terms of giving, if you can, please give generously. Nonprofits are struggling--nonprofits are filling a vital need in society. Nonprofits are trying to make a difference.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change you want to see in the world!"
I Lasso making a difference in the world!