Last week I had a pleasant and productive morning in Flint with some evangelization leaders from the Diocese of Lansing. The meeting was couched in prayer and infused by talk of God’s great love.
When it was over, I pulled out of the restaurant and right into the gas station next door to top off my tank. I never top off my tank, but there I was. A disheveled man came over to ask if I could help him out – he had just bought a new ignition, his wife was sick, and he needed gas. Instantly I had two voices in my head; one said YES, LOVE and the other said BE CAREFUL. So what came out was a ridiculous combination of the two. I said, “Sure, I’ll give you five dollars’ worth,” and I proceeded to fill up my own tank. As I watched my pump’s numbers roll by too quickly, my heart hurt. SERIOUSLY? 5 BUCKS? said the first voice.
“Um, Hey!” I leaned over to the other pump and said to the man, “Let’s do five gallons worth instead.” I swiped my debit card. “Five dollars worth isn’t going to get you very far.” He said it didn’t matter, and he was just grateful for anything. I don’t know how much gas he ended up taking, but I think it was just the five dollars’ worth. I sure hope it was more.
That hope hurt all the way back to Troy. Why did I only offer the bare minimum? Where does it say that in the Bible? Why was my second offer so feeble, too?? What would Jesus have done? Oh goodness, in a way that WAS Jesus – and I gave Him next to nothing! How can I talk about Him all morning and not see Him in my brother? I apologized to the Lord and offered up a prayer for the couple. Send them better help, and give me another chance, God. Help me know You.
When I got back to my office, there was almost immediately an opportunity to give, so I did. The hurt eased. A few more such blessings have come my way since, and I’ve responded. The pain is receding. All of this makes me think of Mother Teresa’s wisdom: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” I have found the corollary, that if we love only enough that it doesn’t hurt, there is not enough love, only more hurt. May the God of all abundance keep teaching us each to expect, receive, and share Him well.
Parish Catechetical Leader