The Might of Our Mite
Health Challenges and Holiday Giving
by Maureen Pratt
‘Tis the season of giving, and like most of us, I have already received several heartfelt appeals for financial and other assistance from individuals and organizations doing very worthy work. How I wish I could help them all! But how I know too well my finite resources of time, talent and treasure.
With several serious health conditions, it’s very difficult for me to figure “extra” budget items or hours of volunteer time into a life that can detour unexpectedly (and expensively) to yet another doctor. So, I have to carefully consider what and how I’m going to give now, as at other times of the year. And, I know I’m not alone.
For families with one or more children suffering health issues or adults taking care of their older parents, financial planning is not as simple as “Room, Board, Transportation and Clothing,” and the idea of charitable giving might seem more optional than optimal.
In families where one parent is disabled due to illness or injury, income might be so restricted that covering the basics is barely possible. Or perhaps a health crisis has occurred that has all but bankrupted an otherwise responsible family member, leaving him or her in the uncomfortable position of reaching out for help instead of being able to render help to others.
In my situation, as with others that stretch personal resources, it’s only human to feel inadequate when it comes to the ability to give in charity. I hear of the tremendous need of others in my community or in another part of the world and my heart saddens when I think of how little I tangibly have to give. I imagine the widow who gave her last coins to honor God in the Temple (Mark 12:41-44) might have felt that way, surrounded by the crowd of more wealthy and seemingly more generous people.
But, even as I feel twinges of not measuring up, I always find it helpful (and energizing) to consider what Our Lord observed as He observed that same, poor widow. Far from being dismissive of her contribution, Jesus commended her, saying, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).
How comforting that is! And how inspiring. We might not have much at all to give, and we might not be physically able to donate days of our time to a cause. But that which we can give, heartily offered, can have a big and lasting impact.
In other words, if we consider the “might” of our “mite,” instead of the relative insignificance of the amount of time or treasure we can give, we open up new, exciting possibilities for ourselves (the givers) and others (those to whom we give).
Tangibly speaking, I try to apply this idea of the “might” of my “mite” to the interactions I have with people on a daily basis, particularly strangers. For example, I cannot pay the copays of each patient who is sitting with me in my doctor’s waiting room, but I can pray to discern if and where there is a need or someone who could benefit from a kindness that I could provide. Often, a gesture of love can ease stress and worry like no amount of financial help could.
At the annual food drive at my church, I carefully consider the type of food that I purchase for my donation bag, keeping in mind what is within my budget and what is most healthful (and not expired!). This way, I am giving respect for the life of the person who will receive my offering, both in quality and care.
I keep my ears open for ways I can connect people in need with people of good reputation who can help (and I pray that God will put these people in my path). This act of service promotes God’s goodness and as such is priceless. It also, I hope, fosters the desire for the people I connect to pass along their information and expertise to others.
Of course, giving might also involve cash. Although, depending on the month, I might not have a lot left over, I regularly empty my purse of all loose change at the end of each day. The accumulated coins add up! And they provide money that I can target for a specific end-of-the-year cause.
I have lived with lupus for nearly 16 years, and it has been both a challenge and a blessing. But throughout this time, I have learned that the best way to approach life with serious illness is to believe there is always something we can do, something we can give to others through faith and hope. That “something” might not always be money; sometimes, medical bills will be so high and medications so expensive that there isn’t a penny to spare. But even then, there is a kind word, a gesture of love, an extra minute spent in conversation with a stranger or a follow-up to a call or email from a frantic friend.
Yes, there is always something—and that something is a mighty mite, a gift from God to be passed along with all the enthusiasm, gratitude and light that makes Christmas so bountifully, blessedly beautiful!
Maureen Pratt is Member-At-Large board member of CAN, a popular speaker, and the author of 6 books, including Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness (Image/Penguin Random House, 2005). Her new book, Don’t Panic!: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough (Franciscan Media) will be published in Spring 2016. She is from central Illinois and currently lives in Southern California.
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