I am a big supporter of not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing.
I don’t think it looks good to share how great you are when you go downtown and pay attention to homeless people for an hour then post it to social media. I don’t think you look anything but self-righteous telling others about the meal you served or the gift you gave or the way you were able to show off your privilege or power to make someone else thankful you exist.
With that in mind, I’m only telling you the first part of this story so the second part makes sense. I don’t want or need you to think I’m generous or kind, because I am really not.
I am not generous or kind.
We have more money than we need right now. As a result, we got to do a lot of exciting, sneaky things for people we know and don’t know over the holidays. We have been on the receiving end of this type of generosity before; we know the anxiety and stress December can bring. This year was different. We had extra.
Some years you’re on the needy list.
Some years you’re on the “let’s meet some needs” list.
This year we were on the latter.
The thrill of getting to be able to share with others was, by far, the best part of Christmas.
Last week, the girls and I were talking about some of the things we were able to do as we drove to see the new Little Women movie. I was trying to remind them that we have the money to see more movies now, but our extra money isn’t just used to do more stuff and buy more things. I was reminding them (again) that the more we have, the more we have to share. I was saying this for the millionth time and wondering if they ever really heard me.
After the movie, we were sitting at a stoplight leaving the mall. A man was on the corner with his beat-up sign begging for money. I didn’t have any cash, and anyway, I had just preached a really good sermon to my kids about being generous so I didn’t have the energy left to dig around for some loose change.
I was looking at my phone as I waited for the light to change. As it turned green, I hear Harper’s window roll down and see her chubby little hand hold out a Target gift card to the man.
He looks at me.
I look at him.
I look at Harper.
We drive off.
Harper, that was a $30 gift card from Grandma. Did you know that? I said, slightly panicked.
She started crying.
I didn’t know it was that much, she said through tears. I thought it was $10.
It’s okay! It’s okay! Don’t cry! I said as we pulled into our next stop.
She climbed into my lap and wedged herself between the steering wheel and me. I held her as she sobbed and sobbed.
I want it back, she said when she was able to catch her breath.
That’s not how it works, I explained to her.
She knew exactly how much was on the card. I know she read the $30 note on the envelope before handing it over. She knew what she was doing.
She knew exactly what she was doing.
And she was absolutely fine doing it until I reacted the way I did. Then she got embarrassed and wanted it back. I saw her looking at her sister out of the corner of her eye as she cried. She was worried about what her sister thought about her choice, if Ellie thought she was silly for doing what she did.
I had spent time that afternoon encouraging my kids to be generous and then when one of them does what I ask, I make her doubt her generosity.
Here’s what I was thinking as we drove away from the stoplight: She just gave someone over half her Christmas money. Oh, no. She didn’t need to do that. She doesn’t have that much money to begin with. She’s eight! $30 is a lot of money. Heck, I’m 38 and $30 is a lot of money. She should have asked me. I could have found some change. Thirty dollars! That’s a lot of money! Why did she do that??
What my eight year old was thinking as she pulled her brand new $30 gift card out of her very empty wallet: That man says he needs money. I have some money. Let me give him what I have.
I have so much to learn.