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Thirty-six years ago, Ron and I had only been married a few months when we moved to his hometown. The two lives that had become one inside a college-life fishbowl were suddenly flopping and flailing on the hard counter of real life. Ron knew this territory better than the back of his hand, but it seemed I had moved to Mars. I was a city girl. This was the country. I relied on street signs. This town had none. I knew of Mayberry. Now I lived there. And who dials a measly four digits to call someone? Only God knew how badly I needed something familiar.
So, like the good God that He is, rather than moving a shopping mall next door, He introduced me to Mack and his wife.
Our first Sunday at a new, prospective church led us into Mack’s Sunday School class. He was a snappy dresser with a big smile that made us feel welcomed. It was barely the 80’s, so it didn’t hurt that he sported a gold chain while teaching a bunch of young folks. (Major cool points for that!) His way of teaching was down-to-earth and more conversational than preachy, much like Ed, my back-home Sunday School teacher. Mack’s classes made me feel at home, but more importantly he had that X factor that piqued my curiosity. What was it that made him see things like he did?
After many years of mentoring from Mack and his sweet wife, I discovered what made them both different. It was generosity. More than once, I saw Mack open his wallet to help someone at church who was down and out of most everything. No fanfare. No expectations. Just love.
Mack was a good businessman and even better steward of the blessings God had showered on him. He knew of Ron’s love for horses and offered to sell us one of his. We were still young and didn’t have much money so Ron declined. Mack wouldn’t take no for an answer. He said, “Aw, you just go ahead and take her, and when your ship comes in you can pay me.” So we did. We paid a little bit along and kept up with it, but wanting to make sure we had our figures right, Ron asked him how much we still owed. I’ll never forget Mack’s answer. He just smiled and said, “I figure you’ll let me know when you’re done.” His generous spirit made us want to pay him back even quicker because we realized he never cared whether we paid him back or not. He just wanted to bless us.
When I wrote Everyday Heroes I crafted the following sentence that may have very well been nurtured by my friend Mack.
I believe Mack had been taught generosity through his humble acceptance of grace. That grace made him the perfect choice to shepherd a church full of sheep. He looked for new and innovative ways to strengthen all us lambs in his fold. He never let money or any other obstacle stand in his way. He didn’t blaze a trail all at once just to have it blow up and be gone. He lit one fire at a time under one person at a time, always moving forward with deliberate intention.
Mack listened more than he talked, but he whistled, sang, and hummed even more than he listened, which always made me smile. As Children’s Minister I’d sit at my desk needing advice, and then I’d hear him coming down the hall whistling an unknown but happy tune. He never stopped by without checking in on me. He encouraged my heart, supported my ideas, corrected me when needed, and prayed with me.
Thankfully, our society still considers a generous spirit to be an admirable quality. However, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and providing shelter for the homeless without introducing them to the Grace Giver is like throwing a drowning man a life preserver with no rope attached. It may keep his head above water, but it doesn’t guide him to safety.
I want to help others, but I also want to lead them to safety, don’t you? Jesus is the way to that safe haven. He is neither make-believe nor imagined. He put us in good standing with God. He wants to bless us just because He gets a kick out of it. He doesn’t need or want us to try to pay Him back because He knows when grace is humbly accepted, a torrent of generosity and thankfulness will crash through our self-centeredness.
I like how Paul connects grace and thankfulness here: “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:14-18)
Maybe God is about to introduce you to someone new. When He does, be thankful. Be gracious. Be generous. You just might become contagious!