An Unexpected Lesson in Serving Others
Proverbs 11: Verse 25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed
What does it mean to be generous? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as to give or share freely. Therefore, the next question I have is to give what? What is it that God is asking us to “give” when he says a generous person will prosper? Are we to give money? Necessities? Things? Time? Knowledge? Love? Perhaps the answer to my question is in the second half of the verse. “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed”. I like the concept, I love the word…”refreshed”. Stop right now, say it out loud . Re FRESHED! Say it again and this time draw out the shhhh sound like REFRESSSHED! Doesn’t make you feel good, like you’re surrounded by millions of little bubbles as you lay comfortably in the middle of a warm bath? Or maybe the word reminds you of jumping into a cool lake on a hot summer day. For whatever reason, maybe really good marketing, I picture a big, clear glass of Sprite with HUGE droplets running down the side and fizzy little bubbles jumping out of the glass. I don’t even want to drink it, just the image in my mind is absolutely REEEEFRESSSSSHING! Okay, I must digress, after all what does a soft drink have to do with “living” the words set forth in the Bible over 2000 years ago? The answer? Nothing but maybe everything!
The mind is a powerful thing. The fact of the matter is that as humans, unlike your favorite internet browser, (In case you are wondering, mine is Chrome) don’t have a refresh button. The only way we become refreshed is through how we see ourselves at any given point time. Take a nap, you wake refreshed or if you are like me, you wake even more tired! Jump in a lake, feel refreshed or to some of you that may mean that you feel COLD! It’s really a matter of perception as to WHAT will refresh you or someone else. So if God is asking us to REFRESH others, shouldn’t we first know what it means for that person to be refreshed?
The other day it was BITTER COLD, snowy and very windy. There was approximately 8 inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground. It was so cold that even the dogs couldn’t stand to be outside for more than a few minutes. So in keeping with my theme of “living” the Bible and just simply wanting to be a “good” guy, I proceeded to clear out the driveway of the elderly couple that lived next to me. It seemed like a great idea so I proceeded to clear out the first of their two driveways. The snow was deep and the wind on my face was cold. My hands and toes were getting a bit numb but all I could think about was how grateful I was to be in a position that I could help them. As I began the second driveway, the garage door opened and standing there in just a sweater was my neighbor Kathy. Though we met several years ago and have had numerous conversations since, she looked at me and said, “who are you?”. “Kevin”, I said. Well either I must have put on a few pounds or my light grey beard was more of a disguise that I thought because even after stating my name she said, “from next door?”, I said yes. Surprised, she said, “ohhhh, bless you! I didn’t recognize you with your hood up and your beard.” This is where the story takes and interesting and unexpected twist!
She graciously thanks me for my help, then turns and points to an old lawn tractor darning tire chains and a snowblower. As we look at the old tractor she begins to tell me that he husband, who had a stroke several years ago, often time feels so worthless, a shadow of his younger self. She continues to tell me that he is a proud man and that clearing his own driveway makes him feel like he still has value as the head of their household. I should have known this. I should have honored this because several years ago on a much nicer snow day, he refused my help, at the time, I just didn’t understand why. Now that I did, I felt awful. As we continued to chat, tears welled up in her eyes as she told me about the recent, untimely passing of her second child. Though the conversation got heavy, I could tell that it was exactly what she needed in that moment. At the end of our conversation she looked at me and said, “if you want to shovel the sidewalk, that’s my responsibility and I’m not too proud to ask!”, so of course I did and she closed the garage door and went back into the house.
I thought of this story today when I read verse 25. What I learned that day is that what is deemed generous to one person may be considered offensive or intrusive to another and what I may find refreshing, someone else may consider frustrating. Like most things in life, it’s all a matter of perspective.
So many times in my life, my heart is in the right place but through someone else’s eyes, maybe because of my delivery or possibly their own insecurities, they miss my true intention. When this has happened, either a stake has been driven between us and our relationship takes a step backward or feelings are hurt. Either way, my true intention was not received.
So then, what’s the lesson and how do I apply the lesson(s) learned and move forward with generosity in an attempt to refresh others? I think the answer is simply to ask first. Ask what the recipient of your generosity needs. Ask them how you can best serve them and more importantly, listen to AND respect their answer. You may want to “solve” or “fix” a friends problem, when all they really wanted was a ear to listen or a hug. You may want to offer someone money when all they want is an opportunity. You may want to give advice when all they want is a pat on the back and to find their own way. Or as in my case, you may want to serve someone you think is too old and weak to be out in the cold shoveling snow when all they want is to prove to you and themselves that they still can.
Have a great day!
PS- Two days later I received a call from the same neighbor. This time her husband asked her to call me to see if I would be so kind to accept payment for removing snow from their back porch before it thaws and turns into water in their basement. Of course I said yes:) I am looking forward to my payment of some homemade bake goods 🙂