This is Week 4 of our Generosity Series. Need to start at the beginning? Read the Introduction here.
There has long been a misunderstanding among our dominant culture (i.e. the descendants of European settlers), that generosity can only be shown through the giving of checks or physical items. To be generous, you must have wealth and distribute that wealth.
But among Native people, generosity can be (and should be) shown in many different ways and by all people, even those who think they have nothing to give.
Lesson #3: Gifts are more than material things. you can be generous with what you have.
In most Native American cultures, everyone has something to give.
When you live a self-sustaining life, hunting what you eat and living as one community, there are the obvious shows of generosity: sharing after a hunt and sacrificing for the good of future generations. But in a community that depends so heavily on each other to survive, every act is one of generosity.
Children listen to elders. They obey their parents and other adults. They go to them for advice. Children GIVE respect.
Elders take the time to pass on their knowledge, teaching the ways of their ancestors. Elders GIVE wisdom.
Parents allow their children to come into the kitchen or tag along out in the community. Parents GIVE time and patience and love.
Obviously, this does not just apply to Native culture. Parents all over the world are patient and loving to their children. And have you ever met a grandmother who doesn't love to tell stories to her grandchildren or teach them her secret cookie recipe?
The difference is, and the lesson we can learn is, that everything we do can be a gift to those around us. We can encourage generosity with a listening ear or a funny joke. We can give the gift of obedience or share the gift of our knowledge.
And the end result of this daily generosity is the desire to give more. To give more time, to give more resources, and to give more of Christ's love to those around us.
In our work as missionaries for Christ in our everyday lives, let's strive to give more Jesus.
Whether you do that with a check to your favorite charity (we accept those here at Lutheran Indian Ministries!) or by sending your neighbor a friendly hello across the fence, this upcoming holiday season should reflect the generous love and grace that our Father gave to us through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We all have something to give.