Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rusted Cans

Last week, I spent several hours sorting donated canned goods at the North Texas Food Bank.  During the days of the State Fair of Texas, people can get into the fair on Wednesdays at a greatly reduced price by donating three cans of food per person.  On Thursday, those thousands and thousands of cans must be sorted and boxed for distribution to various agencies around the Metroplex so the food can get to the hands of the hungry.

Instructions:  "Often, people will bring the dregs of their pantries in order to take advantage of the almost free entrance into the fair.  Some of the cans will be bulging, dented to the point of danger, or rusted.  You will need to look at every can, and toss the questionable ones."

We were also told not to worry about expiration dates.  The leader said, "It will paralyze you to find the dates.  Just look for the signs of damage."

So for the next several hours my group along with other volunteers from around Dallas grabbed armfulls of cans from big bins, inspected each one, tossed the bad ones and boxed the usable ones.

Most of the cans were in great shape.  However, a fair number did have to be discarded.  As I was sorting, tossing and boxing, I couldn't help but wonder about those who had intentionally donated such unusable items in order to get into the State Fair cheaply.  After wrinkling my nose at one severely rusted can, I thought, "Does the person who donated this item not care that it could easily make someone ill?  Is a person who needs to use a food bank for family provision of less worth than those who have the means to donate to a food bank?"

I just about always find it convenient to point the fingers of blame at others (as do most of us), so I decided I should look at myself. In what ways have I offered the dregs of my life, my heart, my talents, my closet, my pantry, to others and to God?  Where have I looked down my nose at those who need help?  It's easy to do, and is a particularly nasty form of snobbery. We all operate off a thin safety margin, even in the best of economic times.  Right now, things are unusually difficult for those on the financial edge.  The giver of today could very easily be the receiver of tomorrow.

I often see the human tendency to give from the leftovers, not from the best.  The Bible and other sacred scriptures speak clearly to this:  We are to give to God from the first fruits harvested, not the last ones dutifully gleaned after the good stuff is already picked. We are to give from the best of the harvest and the flock, not what is dented or lame or rotting or unusable.  We are to give from the top of the paycheck, not as an afterthought or because there just happens to be a little bit left after all other wants and needs have been satisfied.

Our world teaches "me first."  "God first" thinking means we turn our minds upside down and our souls inside out.  We acknowledge that we have a responsibility to handle with holiness the money, possessions and talents that come our way. We become stewards, not owners, knowing that God will someday call us to account for our choices. 

I want to hear, "Well done, Christy" at that time when God examines my life and choices. I'll hear those wonderful words when I, too, give from the precious and priceless top, not the worthless leftovers. I'll get that pat on the back when I quit thinking, "This is MINE!" and start thinking, "I've been entrusted with much.  Therefore, much is required of me."  What a privilege!

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