There’s a song I remember from my childhood called Sunday Best, or something like that. It was sung by one of those cutesy Christian couples that toured churches singing to tracks and selling CDs. It was a song with a good heart, an annoyingly catching tune, and a message that I’ve always thought a bit off base. The crux of the song is in the chorus: “Monday through Saturday I can’t take a rest from putting on my Sunday best.” The idea that everyday of the week we (meaning American Christians) should be just as nice, smiley, clean, etc as on Churched Sunday. Yeah, I don’t want to get into that... but this song popped into my head today as a petite metaphor of something bigger, and I believe legitimate.
It’s Christmastime! Noël! The season of... what? Giving? Yes, giving! Have you ever had that strange Christmas sensation come over you where sometime in December you just want to do a little something out of the ordinary and give a little extra? In a sudden moment of Christmas warmth you’re inspired to dig deep in your pockets or go out in the cold to give a helping hand. Maybe to the Salvation Army Santa Clause ringing the bell, maybe to the orphanage you know of in town, perhaps to your church, or to a friend that you want to really surprise this year. Have you experienced this? This desire to give, not out of guilt, and not to get anything back? Have you then done it? How does it make you feel? Good? Good. Good!
We have Pizza Hut here in Paris, which I’m pretty fond of. So we ordered some pizza. But when I went to pick it up, a mistake had been made and the wrong pizza prepared. The manager righted it for us and cooked up our usual pan supreme, and then sent me home with a free extra. Our little family of 3 clearly didn’t need the additional pizza, so I hopped in my car with it and went in search of a beggar, a person or family in need. I found a Roma mother and her small daughter, freezing and sitting outside by a wall. I offered them the pizza, and in that moment I felt wonderful, seeing their eyes light up and the joy at opening the box and finding a whole fresh pizza. They ate a piece each and then stored away the rest, perhaps for later, perhaps for other family members. But when I got back in my car, I felt horrible. I hadn’t given anything of myself. Not a bit. That was an extra pizza that I didn’t even pay for and truth be told didn’t like (had bacon and sour cream on it). So what had I given? My scraps. That’s it. Kind of pathetic really.
Living in France has helped us to become much less wasteful. It’s natural, and sort of expected in society. I can no longer take a plastic grocery bag away from a store without feeling a little grossed out by it (in part because it costs a nickel, in part because it’s killing the environment, mostly because it’s just wasteful). Much less is consumed and wasted here than my former life in the States. I actually look back on our burning trash in Africa and think we wasted a lot there too. I’m really glad that our lifestyles have changed to the point that it’s natural to reuse, recycle, and give away what’s excess.
Think about how much good we could do the world if we were intentional about putting our excess to good use. You know that silly phrase moms use to get their kids to eat vegetables by saying that there’s starving children in Africa? Well I’ve lived there, and it’s true. But you can’t box up your green beans and ship them to “starving kid in Africa.” You know what you can do? Pull together all the leftovers, mix them into a casserole with some cheese or something (not the cook in the family...), put it in a box and go find a family in need. I’m willing to bet there’s more than one within a couple miles of your house. But don’t confuse it: that’s not giving. That should simply be normal. Everyday. Expected.
I want to get to the point that giving, actually giving of myself is easy, natural, and a lifestyle. Giving of my excess is a nice step. One that will help the world, but maybe not change it. Instead of (or rather in addition to) passing on my scraps of pizza, how about finding that same family and asking what they’d like on their pizza? Then order it, pay for it, and hand-deliver it. That’s a bit more like giving. And I don’t want it to be seasonal. I want it to be January through December. Every month, every year.