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Surprise Generosity

Twenty dollars is a lot of money to my good friend, whom I’ll call Joan. She was homeless many years ago, and for decades lived financially on the edge, working multiple jobs as she found them and creating her own businesses whenever possible. With a family gift to help with a down payment a long time ago, she began buying a house, and now has it paid off. With personal discipline she continues to live frugally, savoring life’s goodness.

So it was a big gift when a friend sent her a twenty-dollar bill in her Christmas card this year. In gratitude, Joan tucked it away separately in her purse for some special, undisclosed purpose.

This week as she drove into the parking lot of a big box store, Joan caught sight of her neighbor’s car, just leaving. But instead, her neighbor pulled her car into the space next to her. “I saw a woman in a van, parked just a few spaces away from you, and noticed the car was full of things and she was cooking in her car,” she said. “I gave her five dollars. I guess she’s homeless, living here in the parking lot.”

Immediately Joan knew where her surprise gift was meant to go. She gave the woman in the van the twenty dollars. “I’m waiting for a job to come through,” the woman said, “and this makes all the difference in the world. Thank you so much!”

That surprise gift has been given over and over. The Christmas-card friend chose to give the money to Joan. Joan’s neighbor chose to notice the woman in the van and to tell Joan about it. Then Joan chose to give the money to the woman in the van. She is just as thrilled as the recipient to be able to make that gift! Next Joan chose to tell me, and now I am telling you – to spread it further and surprise someone else with the opportunity to receive and to give.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub