It really is a fascinating story. A church in Chicago received a large sum of money from a real estate sale. From the revenue received, the leaders took out 10% and distributed it among the 320 church members, resulting in a $500 check for each person. The pastor of the church then told the congregation to take that money and do good.
And do good they did. Church members bought winter coats for the cold, food for the hungry, and gifts for the needy. Some started non-profit groups and others empowered the elderly. Some simply just gave the money right back to the church. Most of the money given to the church members is now gone but the good that was started with it continues to snowball.
I came across this story in the newspaper on Sunday. By then, it was already old news. Christmas had passed and the church members had received the money all the way back in September. However, this interesting and philanthropic act had a familiar feel to me that went back much longer than just a few months ago.
It must had been six or seven years ago. Sadly, one of my mom’s uncles had passed away. In his generosity, he left behind gifts to his long line of relatives. My mom received a little bit of the money. A couple days before Christmas she directed the three of us kids to look inside our stockings. Usually a place to hold a pack of thank you notes for us to use after opening all of our gifts, this time each of the three stockings held a $100 bill. We each pulled out our bill and looked at mom for an explanation. She explained to us that the cash was for us to use on others. She didn’t give us a timeline or narrow down the vast ways in which we could spread holiday cheer with the money. Rather, my mom just let us know that it was our duty to be honest with the money and to utilize it for others.
When you receive a gift such as this you immediately feel two things. First, you feel admiration for the person so selfless enough to give a good chunk of her money to you to spend on others. Second, you feel responsibility. In your conscience there is a force that tells you that you better use every penny wisely to make a difference. I took my mom’s gift very seriously.
Although I had much respect for my mom’s special present to us, I can’t pinpoint exactly down to the very last detail how I spent the money. I do know three of the ways in which I passed it forward though: I donated a portion to the giant Christmas charity fund the local newspaper in Spokane, the Spokesman-Review, collects each year. I dropped a ¼ of the money into a Salvation Army bucket. The last thing I can remember doing with the money was giving $20 to a person at Wal-Mart who was panhandling. I know I made the money stretch for at least one more cause but I can’t think of it. I realize I didn’t do anything truly unique with the cash but I did make every effort to put it to good use.
One of these days when I have kids I hope to do something similar to what my mom did. I commend the church in Chicago for taking the idea and magnifying it. The best present is the gift of giving. Don’t Blink.