On Giving – An Essay by Ms. Rica Bolipata Santos

Today, I share with you an essay by Ms. Rica Bolipata Santos. I am grateful to her for giving me permission to share this piece with our parish of Christ the King last December in time for Christmas and I also post it here for our web readers.

I hope that this essay will touch you in the same way that it has touched me. May it make us realize that gratefulness and giving are part and parcel of stewardship as a way of life. Here goes:

“Lately, I’ve been thinking about “giving”. My first admonition about it, once again, comes from my mother: “God loves a cheerful giver.” She would dispense this line whenever I would give because there was no longer any choice and I would display my generosity with a frown, a pout or “dabog.” She would stop me in mid-act and remind me that if one was to give, one was to give, not out of guilt or anger, but out of true generosity.

Like many things my mother has told me (such as this line: sufficient for the day is the evil thereof), the syntax, the sentence construction, its depth would elude me and meaning and relevance would come much later. Today when either of the children give with rancor in their heart, their feet and faces heavy, I stop them too and give the same admonition: God loves a cheerful giver. And truly, when the day is endless and every thing I have done and not done has not changed anything, I whisper to myself “sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” loving the profound syntax of it.

My parents were good givers, in every sense of that word. Maybe it’s old world charm? I understand now that they gave from two different positions of heart. My father gave because everyone had given so much to him, a poor farmer’s child, who grew up in the mountains of Bukidnon, his life laid out before him, that future he saw in fear and trepidation. He knew he was meant for greater things but the mountains stood in his way. How providential that he would be “saved” from such a fate by the pure generosity of others. And so he gave from that spirit; from the belief he too could save others because of his own generosity. My whole life is a parade of memories of people coming to the house pleading for my father’s generosity, for his ability to change people’s destinies.

My mother gave because it was expected of her – of her class and lineage. Growing up in a home filled with people who served her, her own parents told her to always be grateful, to never take things for granted; to know that her life was a kind of reciprocal endeavor. You took care of your people forever. It is damn feudal but watching it from where I am as daughter, there is a beauty to it that cannot be denied.

My parents lived the Bible almost literally. They truly believed that wealth was not to be hoarded. They truly believed that wealth came specifically to those who knew how to use money to create a better Kingdom. Even when they were poor, they could still give beyond measure. And yes, they did it with a cheerfulness that could not be faked. Because I am certain that God does not like a fake giver either.

What about me? What kind of a giver am I? I do not have my parent’s wealth, in spite what people might think of me. But I have their spirit in me. In fact, to a fault, for I do not know how to take or receive.

My parents were bad at that too. An act of kindness for them was almost unbelievable. My father would cry and shake his head, so worthless in his own eyes to be surprised or given to. It was the smallest things that moved him most. French toast made by his daughters for his birthday or an extra serving of fried chicken at Christmas. He loved receiving gadgets: plugs, wires, and such. He could never shake off his sense of wonder at how his fate changed so extremely, which was why it was the small stuff that rocked his world.

Until today when anyone gives anything to my mother, her first response is to give it away. I used to think it was Machiavellian, but actually it is something else. Beautiful things were considered never for herself. One of her other lines: masyado namang maganda para sa akin. And I guess I must have learned this too.

My days are filled with giving both consciously and unconsciously I’ve noticed, like first nature, rather than second. I am prone to give away as soon as someone mentions something they like that I have. You like my bracelet? Here it is yours! My notebook, here it is yours! My blouse, here it is yours! The joy I feel my mother would be proud of. I am both cheerful and genuine.

But I must admit, I still have much to learn in this area of love. I think it is difficult for me to receive because of the necessary letting go it entails. As giver, you are main mover, source of being and there is power. But to receive is to come from a different position – it is to hand over power to someone else. It is an ability to be truly surprised. It is an ability to allow someone else to do the giving which is very hard having been taught that giving is better. Were we not taught that line, “it is better to give than to receive?”

Maybe this too mirrors my relationship with Christ. My acts of generosity allow me to focus on myself and not on the silent things thrown my way by the Original Giver. A powerful psyche is a dangerous thing, I must say. I need to learn how to see things and movements and random acts as gifts FOR me and not from me. I am not generous or giving because I am. I am generous and giving because He is generous and giving to me. I can only give because I receive-to truly live that out is a great and worthy challenge. That requires more than cheerfulness and more than authenticity. It requires humility.

Perhaps this too is something you share with me? Perhaps we all need to see that things in our domain, or our ownership, and our very acts of giving, the freedom we have to give, not as ours and ours alone, but given to us. What would happen if every concert, every solo, every spiel, every movement were seen not only as giving but also as receiving? Would it be possible that we would be able to give more?

My mother it turns out, much to my chagrin, is once again right. Even as a young child, she used to say this to me all the time: Gratefulness Rica. Above all, gratefulness.”

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