Sharing with Those Who Have Less: A HUGE Blessing to the Giver
Besides benefiting Sharon and me, the new depth of contentment attained that night helped other people our lives touched. Sharon and I both had a long-time friend, Darla, whom I had known before the divorce and whom Sharon had known since Darla worked in Sharon’s daycare. Darla’s husband left and overnight made her a single mom with a five -year-old and a new baby.
One Saturday, Sharon and I bought a big ham and cooked it. We also bought enough sweet potatoes, green beans, cornbread, and fruit salad for four meals. Then we went home and spent about three hours making sweet potato casserole, green bean salad, cornbread, and fruit salad. We packaged all but one meal’s portion in freezer bags.
“Mommy,” Sharon asked as we tucked newspaper carefully into the floor of the car and then added the bowls and bags, “I think Miss Darla is going to be real happy.”
“Me, too, baby,” I said, “She does not have much money at all right now and we have some extra so we should help her. She will be happy, I am sure. And she will be glad to see you, too!”
Miss Darla was indeed delighted. As Sharon and I lugged the food, plus the three bags of groceries, inside, Darla’s eyes brimmed with tears. She hugged us both several times.
As Sharon and I headed back across town toward home, I was exhausted, thinking of all the Saturday chores of our own still ahead of me. I also would be up really late that night to make up for the three hours I usually transcribed on Saturday mornings while Sharon watched cartoons. But the blissful smile on Sharon’s face told me she had experienced, personally, the blessing of giving to others. What a priceless gift to me!
Generosity Should Become a Way of Life
Sharon and I had many chances to work together to help others the next few years while she lived at home. On another occasion, a few weeks later, a girl in her late teens, a recent immigrant from the Caribbean islands, also benefitted from the generosity Sharon and I were learning together.
Sharon was at school when I met Keesha at the tiny laundry room in our apartment complex.
Keesha looked like the teenager I later found out she was. She lacked the maturity necessary to be on her own at 18, and that deficiency was further complicated by having to cope with a new culture.
In the laundry room, I was waiting for a load of blankets to dry. Keesha kept putting quarters in the slot for the washing machine and opening and closing the lid on the washer.
“Excuse me, but you need to turn the handle on the coin tray.”
Keesha looked at me blankly, so I put my book down and walked over to her washer.
“Here. You just do this.” I turned the crank, and immediately water cascaded into the machine.
“Oh, thank you!” Keesha said. “We don’t have these at home.”
“You’re welcome.” I said and went back to my book, but only for a few moments because she kept staring at me. When I looked up, she smiled.
“Can you tell me where the free telephones are, please?”
“Well, there aren’t any free telephones. Local calls cost a quarter.”
I invited her home with me to use the telephone. Over a cup of tea and a plate I heaped high with cookies, we talked some more.
“Keesha” I said “Do you want me to take you to the grocery story this afternoon after I pick up my daughter from school?”
“Oh!, that would be wonderful!”
Keesha’s inability to care for herself was even more painfully obvious in the grocery store .
“My brother gave me this…” Keesha held out thirty dollars in ten dollar bills. “He said this will be food for one week.”
“Okay, I said. Why don’t you and Sharon start getting what you need in your buggy and I’ll work on my list.”
Sharon was all smiles, excited to be treated like a grown-up and, I knew, excited to be helping someone again.
We met at the end of the second aisle. In Keesha’s buggy was a six-pack of soda, a giant bag of candy bars, two magazines, and three bags of cookies. Sharon’s resigned look at me and shrugging shoulders told me she had likely tried to encourage more sensible purchases but had failed. The years of grocery shopping alongside me had obviously taught my child how to stretch the dollars to buy healthy food and how to ignore pricey junk food.
“You know, Keesha,” I began. “Let me explain how you can buy more with your thirty dollars. I know you want treats but they are expensive. Your thirty dollars will not even pay for everything in your buggy already. Let’s put everything back and start over.
I know some especially tasty things that don’t cost so much. Let me show you. You know I’m on a tight budget, too.”
Together, the three of us put the luxuries back on the shelves. The three of us huddled out of the way of other shoppers near the service desk as I explained to Carla the benefits of each item I wrote on her list: oatmeal in the huge economy box would be better than individual packets and would be a good winter breakfast; store-brand wheat bread was just as good as bread from the deli. Store-brand tuna, macaroni and cheese, and English peas would be a good dinner or lunch. Orange juice from concentrate, rather than fresh-squeezed was better as was ground beef, rather than the steak she mentioned.
Our little car was packed for the trip home, just like when Sharon and I did our monthly you-pack-it-grocery-store shopping. Sharon’s smiling face was framed in the rear-view window.
Back at the apartments, Sharon and I helped Keesha carry her three bags of groceries inside her tiny studio apartment. As I put the bag I carried on the only counter space, a 12 by 20 rectangle next to a refrigerator half the size of mine in a kitchenette the size of a closet, a fresh surge of compassion washed over me.
Keesha truly didn’t know how to take care of herself, she was alone in a strange country, and her only family contact was a brother who apparently had minimal contact with her.
“Do you want us to stay a while and help you put away the groceries,” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” was Keesha’s enthusiastic reply.
Twenty minutes later, as Sharon and I walked back to our own apartment, which now seemed spacious, Sharon gave me a conspiratorial wink.
“You gave Carla some of our food when you first met her this morning, Mommy. I know, because I saw Jewel-T tuna and canned milk and nacho-flavored cheese crackers in Keesha’s kitchen!”