This morning I was early for work, for a change. So I decided to celebrate by stopping in at my favorite Starbucks to get a hot cup of coffee to warm me on such a brisk morning. And once inside, I also caught sight of their new morning sandwiches. Having skipped making my lunch that morning, those sandwiches with their millions of calories made my mouth water. I stood in line for a little more than 5 minutes, and must have changed my mind about them at least 20 times. Once at the front, I decided that, yes, I wanted one, even if it just sat at my desk until I was a little hungrier.
The walk to work in the morning is about a block from the company parking lot, and a cold one at that this time of year. Most cars still carry the telltale signs of frost being furiously scraped off the windows, and give the appearance of just being snowed on (though snow here is an anomaly…..). And the coffee never tasted so good against the brisk cold. On the walk to work, I passed by a doorway with a homeless man sleeping, completely covered from head to toe in a tattered and dirty blanket, thin at that. And I thought to myself how awful that he had to endure that kind of cold through the whole night. And I kept walking. But my pace slowed as I thought of my hot sandwich tucked under my arm. I must have taken at least three more steps forward when I realized my duty and turned around. I walked back to the sleeping man, and without disturbing him, I placed it next to the empty to-go container that already lay on his “luggage”. And then I turned around and walked the rest of the way to work. My face was a bit flushed walking by the workmen that surrounded the area, and I avoided their gaze, actually hoping they DIDN’T see me.
Once inside the doors, I don’t think I thought about the sleeping man or the hot sandwich I had left with him again, as work can take over one’s thoughts once immersed.
I got out a bit early today to take my son to his counseling appointment, and passed the same spot that the man had been sleeping. Of course he was gone. As was his luggage, his blankets, and his empty to-go container. All that remained was the napkins that I had laid under the sandwich…..and the unopened sandwich itself. The seal on the sandwich wasn’t even broken, and it laid in it’s perfect packaging as if placed their deliberately. The message in its abandonment was clear: charity was not favorably accepted by this man.
Now there are several conclusions I can draw from this. One is the lesson that pride and ego can be stronger than necessity. That is true in all our lives. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll say no more on that, for saying more would result in my expectance that if I give, I should receive something for it.
And that brings me to what exactly came to my mind upon leaving that unopened sandwich just as it lay….Giving should be just that. Giving. If it is received thankfully, great. If it is taken greedily, fine. But sometimes our gifts are refused, and that’s ok too. For when we give anything to someone else, we are honoring God. It does not matter what we are giving, as long as it is done with a humble heart and no expectations. For then it is given in love, and given without conditions at that. And that kind of giving, the kind that is given freely without expectations, is showing love. And that is what giving is all about.