Stewardship, proportional giving, tithing, planned giving. These are big left-brained words. Big words, in the head, business like words. When I think about how I learned about giving it was not with these words. Yes, I know they are important words, important concepts, goals to aspire to but they are not what taught me about giving. So, how did I, how do I give? How do I go from big left, brained, in the head words about giving to giving from the heart?
This learning has come over the years. Actually it started when I was a little girl. I remember watching my parents put their offering envelope in the plate week after week. I remember their faithfulness to this even when times were tough. The amount given was not as important as the spirit and faithfulness in which it was given. I remember the Mite Boxes my siblings and I had each year and our instructions from Mother and Daddy to put something in it every day. And I remember the feelings of gratitude that grew from doing that. I remember putting my Mite Box (with a flower from the yard) in the large carved out cross on Easter along with the boxes of friends. I remember thinking how beautiful that looked.
I learned too that giving was not just about money. It was also about time and talent and sharing of that with others who were less fortunate or in need. When I was a teenager I was a Candy Striper. I spent Saturday mornings at the local hospital working at the information desk, delivering flowers and mail. To be able to help put a smile on someone’s face and give them a bit of joy had no price. And I remember the times that a group of us would visit a local nursing home to visit and maybe sing or pay a game of checkers.
At one time I served on the Altar Guild. One of the things I loved to do was polish the brass offering plates. I would sit on the floor of the narthex in silence early on a Saturday morning and rub the tarnish off the plates. I would rub the fingerprints of the usher’s from the previous week away and think about their hands that offered the plate to each aisle of parishioners. I would see the tapestry of giving being woven week to week. Then I would hear stories of how pledges were used, hear stories of gratitude and grace and know that giving from the heart had no percentage or even minimum requirement. We are just called to give.
Today my husband and I pledge to our congregation. We are involved in lay ministries that we feel called to. Sometimes these are such easy things to do. Other times I grit my teeth and mumble under my breath that funds or time are tight right now. Sometimes we are playing catch up with these commitments. The lessons that I get to learn (and it’s been more than once) are that God’s math and God’s time are different than mine. When I give out of faith that there will be enough and with a heart of gratitude there is always enough.
--Carla Pineda is a member of St Mark’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Diocese of West Texas