Mother Theresa once said, "Do not look for spectacular works. What is important is the giving of ourselves". Charles Ringma gives further understanding by suggesting that "in serving others the greatest blessing we can bring is often not the giving of things, but the gift of ourselves."
He suggests that of course the poor need food, of course they need shelter etc… but, they are also people who need to be loved and known, they are people who need our interest and friendship, not simply our giving. Journeying with others through highs and lows of their daily realities is the great gift we can give. Journeying with others - rather than thinking a handout is sufficient - has important incarnational implications, it creates a sense of presence.
I’m being a bit tough on someone at the moment. A 50 something woman who has known nothing but brutal hard work throughout her life. As I type I can see her toothless smile, her wistful looks out of the side of her eyes, her lank featureless grey hair constantly pushed out of her eyes with the back of her hands a la Penelope Pitstop! I guess you could say she has a slightly amusing crush on me. Amusing... but I’m wary. She’s staying away from church until I call. She likes it when I call to ask how she is. She’s worked out stay away and - like Pavlov’s dogs - I call. Countless others have checked up on her but she’s waiting for me. But this time I won’t be manipulated.
She is crying out to be loved and known. She is crying out for interest and friendship. I’ll do that but within careful boundaries. Here is the beginning of some thoughts for me. With those careful boundaries do we dilute the concept of grace within our giving of ourselves? Are the incarnational implications affected? That sense of presence - does it remain authentic?
Mother Theresa and Charles Ringma had me nodding in agreement when I read what they had to say – but sometimes it is difficult!