By Shelley-Ann Brown
Christmas is a time of year when we tend to talk a lot about giving.
The exchange of presents seems to be the perfect backdrop to talk about giving to causes and to others who may be less fortunate. This, of course, applies to finances, but when it comes to giving, we ain’t just talking about money, honey! Other things that we hold dear, our time, our talents, our resources, our experiences are often hard to pry from our grasps.
I had the privilege of going to Haiti, shortly after the earthquake in 2010. I worked with kids at a safe zone that Plan Canada had set up.
While I was there one little boy pulled at my heartstrings. On a daily basis he asked me, in Creole, for the soccer ball that I had brought with me. I’d respond in my dilapidated French, that the ball was for all the children, so I couldn’t give it to him.
On the last day of my time there, I travelled back to the village, so I could give him the ball and a small pump. I couldn’t wait to see the look of joy on his face! When I arrived, I was informed that he was not there, but his father was around and I could give my gift for the little boy, to him.
We walked down the hillside, not far from the site and encountered a small, poorly pitched tent. His father stood beside the tent with a wheelbarrow full of rubble, his arms, face and clothing full of dust. Through a translator I explained what I wanted to do and when he heard he broke out into the most beautiful smile.
He dropped his wheelbarrow and went inside the tent (which I realized at that moment was his home) and returned with a small photo album. It contained perhaps 10 photos. He flipped through the pages and then found an old picture of his son, standing with his twin sister and handed it to me.
“Oh non, Monsieur! Je ne pourrais pas l’accepter!” I exclaimed, fighting back tears. How could I take one of the few photos that he had left after the quake? He insisted, and I reluctantly took the photo with a heart full of gratitude.
We turned to walk up the hill together and, as we passed the crumbled remains of a house on our way out, I thought I heard him say something about it being “his house” to the translator. I stopped in my tracks: ‘What did he just say?, I asked the translator. What she told me next changed my life forever!
The little boy’s father was helping Plan Canada build a set of latrines and douches for the site. He worked voluntarily, long hours of hard labour, without pay to build something essential for his community.
The materials that he used? The rubble from the wreckage left over from his own home.
Now THAT is sacrificial giving! That, is giving when you THINK you have nothing to give. That is what it means to give (with all of your blood, sweat and tears) even when life is crumbling down around you.
That is truly understanding that you are able to take even the pieces of what used to be your life and give them back to God.
I carry that picture of the little Haitian boy in my wallet. Every time I open it, I’m reminded of his father. I’m reminded of how much I have, and how much I have to give. I am reminded of the debt of gratitude I owe, and can never repay, for Christ: the ultimate example of sacrifice.