The Art of Giving

The people of Mocambique went to rock bottom as only people who have been through a devastating civil war can go to rock bottom.
On our fist trip here after the war ended in 1992 there was nothing in this land, we didn’t even hear a birdcall. How most of the population survived is an absolute mystery, (or is it a miracle), to me? But for all this, they are the most generous people and I for one have learnt a lot from the way in which the people around me give without hesitation.
The Bible says that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The derivation of cheerful here is hilaros, meaning willing, good-natured, joyfully ready, to have an enjoyment in giving that sweeps away all restraints.* In this place, that is pretty isolated from the rest of the world, I have experienced this joy first hand.
There is a ritual that takes place each week when Jaime, the guarda of whom I have spoken before, arrives back from his days off carrying a weighty bag. He hands this to me with a huge grin, and then waits with barely contained glee for my reaction to what is inside the bag. The contents vary according to what is available at Jaime’s home but there is always an assortment of sweet potato, peanuts, cashews, pawpaws, oranges, lettuce, guavadillas, cassava all carefully packed.
I have learnt to give huge exclamations of pleasure with each packet that I open, not only to show my very real appreciation but also so that I can see the delight grow in Jaime. I am so moved by the absolute delight this man, who has so much less than I do, takes in sharing what he has with me.
It has been a valuable lesson and one that has given new meaning to the comparatively dry teachings on giving that I have heard, and given, over the years. If I ever thought I was generous I know now that I did not know what the word meant.
So after all these years of thinking I was a fairly giving person, no worse and possible better than the next person, I now find that every time I catch myself wondering if I should do something for a neighbour, or if I should offer to make a salad with the last of my lettuce, I check myself sharply. I am finally starting to understand that the true spirit of giving demands that I must just get on and do it. There is no questioning, no arguing, there is just the seeking of what will bring pleasure and joy to the receiver.
I am learning not to worry whether or not there is enough of something, to just give it to whoever needs it, because I have so much more than I need. My fridge is full, and my heart is grateful that a man who has never been to school, who only speaks his own language has taught me how to give unconditionally.
Obrigada, Senhor Jaime
*Word Worth, New Spirit-filled life bible, NKJV
Copyright © Glenda Stephens, August 2012

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