Season of Giving During Trying Times
BY STEVE SALT
A tough year, stressful, full of fear and doubt. This is one person’s story , a deliberate response to all the uncertainty of the times…
A regular Joe was driving home to see his family after a hard day. He comes upon a beat-up, broken-down car along the side of the road. This average guy, named Jim, doesn’t hesitate to stop and see what help he can give to the stranger standing nearby.
The year was 1929. Life was difficult and the Great Depression was just underway. It was a desperate time when the daily grind for many revolved around one thing: looking for a way to stay alive. It was also a time, interestingly enough, when generosity abounded.
Love and its manifestations of giving, kindness, and compassion have long marked the best of human nature. Whatever impels someone to give of himself even when he has little to offer has pulled many individuals through difficult times.
Scientific investigation on the effects of love in our lives has uncovered some interesting findings. The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, at Stony Brook, New York has been looking into the subject. Part of its mission statement includes answering the question: Does the sincere love of neighbor contribute to the happiness and health of both those who give it and those who receive it?
Check these stats from the Do Good Live Well Survey, released by United Healthcare and VolunteerMatch:
- 68% of those who volunteered in the last year reported volunteering made them feel physically healthier
- 89% reported “volunteering has improved my sense of well-being”
- 92% agreed that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
Jim didn’t know about this data when he volunteered to help the stranger get his car going. I suspect it was out of a sense of duty and privilege, an unconditional love. The men were of different race and came from different cultures, but Jim only saw a neighbor in need. Turns out the man had a wife and several children with him in the car. They were homeless and looking for work when the car would not go any further.
It would be enough that Jim got the car running that day, but he didn’t stop there. Jim had an abandoned house on his property that he offered the family to use as long as they needed. Love knows no bounds. The place was fairly dilapidated, so Jim fixed it up while the family moved in. The home had no heat, so Jim went and got an old Coleman stove he had stored away. The family had no food, so Jim’s wife brought them what she had from her own pantry.
The stranger had no job, so Jim helped him find one. The family had no friends, so Jim’s family befriended them. That’s unselfishness. Jim’s philosophy in life was “giving is living.” If this encounter with a stranger is any indication, Jim knew how to live.
“Goodness and benevolence never tire,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy. “They maintain themselves and others and never stop from exhaustion… The best man or woman is the most unselfed.” The Bible refers to this as being a Good Samaritan, putting love in action.
The stranger and his family stayed in the house for several months before finding a permanent job in another town. They gave back to Jim and his family all they had, their love and respect.
“Giving is living,” was Jim’s philosophy. If this encounter with a stranger is any indication, Jim knew how to live. And he knew how to deflate the angst and fear of the times. A lesson for today.
Sincere thanks to my good friend, Maureen, who shared the account of her father, Jim, with me.