“I’m so happy! I’m so happy!” These words were repeated over and over by a 10-year-old Camp Encounter attendee two summers ago. Remembering this moment still brings a smile to my face (Camp Encounter is one of two camps run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.)
What had brought her so much joy? A fabulous new bicycle? An iPad? News of a trip to Disneyland or a new puppy? Nope. None of the above. This lovely young lady was ecstatic that a bracelet she had made for one of the other camp participants had been delivered and very much liked by the recipient (If memory serves, his response was something like: “This is so cool!”) Can you imagine being as joyful as she in the act of giving?
It has taken me some time to really understand the important lesson this young person’s actions (and reactions) were trying to teach me that day, but I think I’ve got it figured out: I am a terrible giver. That is not to say that I don’t give; I do give of my time and possessions and energy, although I’m sure I could do more. But no, I focus here not on how much or how little I give. Instead, I focus on the quality of my giving.
Come on, we all do it. When someone thanks us for a kindness that we’ve done, our response is often something like: “It was nothing” or “Don’t worry about it.” I know for me, whether I’ve spent five minutes or five hours on a task, I’m very quick to say that it was “No problem” when any gratitude comes my way. I will confess that there have been times I’ve been relieved to drop off a gift, when the recipient is unexpectedly out, as it won’t be necessary to suffer through the embarrassment of being thanked. My acts of giving can seem so small and unworthy. However, what I’m beginning to understand from this camp attendee’s beautiful example is that this attitude misses the point.
Our Catholic tradition teaches us about the reverent, sacrificial love that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The relationship of the triune God is such that there is a constant and joyful giving and receiving between the three.
And we are taught, that their love is so all-encompassing that it cannot be contained, and so it must be shared with us. The sacred flow of giving and receiving between the persons of the Trinity serve as an example to us of what right relationship with God and each other looks like.
The young giver from my story above was able to recognize the joy of this divine flow and enter into it fully. It hadn’t been her idea to make the bracelet. She wasn’t the one who had driven to the store to purchase the necessary beads or threads. The assembly process had not taken her hours. However, she had accepted the materials and the time that were gifted to her by God, passed these onto another, and then appreciated the gratitude that had naturally flowed from the next recipient of God’s gifts.
She had, at some level, recognized the sacredness of the act of giving. She had instinctively and completely participated in the sacrificial love of the Trinity, allowing extraordinary joy to enter her day.
Being able to give is a privilege. The act of giving allows us to participate in the sacred flow of love that exists through the Persons of the Trinity. During this time of pandemic, there are so many opportunities to give of our time, our energy and our love. Let us ask God to help us fully experience the joy that comes with sharing the gifts that our triune God has given to us.
-Sister Michelle Langlois, fcJ is chaplain and a teacher at St. Thomas More junior high school in Edmonton. Her column was originally published on the FCJ Sisters’s Weaving One Heart blog.