Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Transition and the Journey 5: Giving for something other than a tax refund.

Giving... another hot potato. Me and Myself discuss the difference between what used to be the norm and the rule, and what is coming from the heart now.

Me: Good morning!

Myself: We really need to curb these early mornings.

Me: It was your idea to start working out.

Myself: Just mine? Actually, now that you mention it, don't you feel somewhat better now that we have incorporated some physical exercise into our routine?

Me: I do, I am tired, but I do feel good. We are back on a routine. How does that feel?

Myself: I don't know if it is a routine. I don't feel bound to it. I have missed the odd day to stay at home for a bit in the morning. It is just a nice space to be in. It is a place to go where I know I am contributing to my health in a small way.

Me: Maybe even a big way. Contributing... that is what we want to talk about today. Do you want to open up today's can of worms?

Myself: I can hand over thousands of dollars a year to a organization, get a tax receipt and no one tells me I am wasting, or being unwise with, my money. In fact, giving that way is not only encouraged, but mandated as a way to get the blessing of God in most churches. I don't want label all the sheep with that. Just most of the flock.

When, out of the blue, I want to give something to someone, get no tax receipt in the process, I get the following comments...

"You shouldn't have."
"What's the occasion?"
"I can pay for that."
"Why don't you put your money towards (such and such an organization)? You will get a tax receipt."

Me: The power of an income tax deduction. That seems to be the primary motivation for giving.

Myself: You aren't far off on that one. It is definitely "unorthodox" and "unwise planning", if you give without the opportunity to reap a precious tax receipt.

Me: Giving is done more through organizations and encouraged by organizations. What is the reward for you? Your income tax refund.

Myself: I liked my income tax refund. I know that since leaving organized church, it isn't as big.

Me: It is harder to give now, for the very reason you described. No one questioned us when we dropped a cheque in the offering plate. Now when we want to give, we have to defend our motivations. When church was a part of your life, did you ever drop money in the offering plate without a return address?

Myself: Not often. And when I did, it wasn't much.

Me: Do you remember your reasoning?

Myself: Why give anonymously, when you can give and get a tax receipt. The money is still going to the same place, you are just getting a bonus once a year for it.

Me: Be totally honest with this one. In all your years of dropping cheques in the offering plate, did you ever experience anything but obligation.

Myself: If you are asking me if I ever felt joyful... I don't know if I can give you a "Yes" answer. There wasn't a face in the offering plate. I was giving to a cause and I seemed satisfied that I could do that. Even when it was a missions offering, I was still giving to an organization and still expecting to reap a reward for it. I don't believe I can compare the obligation of tithes and offerings to the joy of spontaneous and anonymous giving.

Me: Do you have any stories about the spontaneous giving you have done that didn't get you a tax receipt?

Myself: I remember going to Subway for lunch when I lived in Calgary. I picked up a Sub and a fountain drink. I hadn't gone more than a block when I saw a girl sitting on the sidewalk busking. I ended up sitting beside her while she ate my Sub and drank my ice tea. I won't forget that day. I have often wondered if that is something I could do more often.

Me: What did that feel like?

Myself: Inside, it really felt good.

Me: Does anything else come to mind. Something bigger than a subway lunch?

Myself: A few things. But I haven't learned how to give without providing an excuse. I do remember my Dad giving me something once.

Me: Your Gusdorf office desk.

Myself: I won't forget what he told me. " This isn't for your birthday, it isn't for Christmas... you need this. " And he sent me to Staples to pick out an office desk and he paid for it.

Me: That seems like joyful giving.

Myself: Yes, but he had to explain himself too, or I would have resisted the gift.

Me: Why is that? Why is it that we can't graciously accept someone else's blessings.

Myself: That's because we feel like we have to earn everything we get. Not too many people are comfortable with "charity"... except the organized church. And they almost demand it.

Me: Demand seems like a harsh word.

Myself: Manipulation is a better word. Most are guilted into feeling that God won't bless them if they don't hand over their monthly dues or tithes. I am going to get nasty here.

Me: Go ahead.

Myself: Real giving isn't what you drop in the offering plate. It is what you drop on your neighbour's front steps.

Me: You will have to elaborate on that one.

Myself: I am not talking about the regular delivery of the Watchtower magazine either. I am talking about meeting the needs of your neighbour in a way that isn't motivated by what you get in return.

Me: I like how you put that.

Myself: I was down with bronchitis not that long ago. And I remember on occasion the snow on the sidewalk was blown away, so I wouldn't have to shovel. I am sure my neighbour didn't know I was sick. But I call that real giving. He saw a need and decided to do something about it. And maybe he didn't even drop anything in the offering plate that week or at all.

Me: What do you really want to get across?

Myself: I don't go to church anymore. I don't give money once a week or once a month to an offering plate anymore. But I still want to give and experience the joy of giving. I don't want to have to justify my giving with excuses or reasoning. I want to hear from God and have my husband's okay and that should be good enough. Even if it is extravagant... and even if I don't get a income tax receipt. Can I do that much?

Me: Doesn't seem like much of a request. I would hope more people get that kind of inspiration.

Myself: I am all worked up now. Can we go outside and shovel snow?

Me: We already did this morning.

Myself: I know... but let's do it again.

Me: Okay.

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