About two weeks before Christmas last year while I was volunteering at a local crisis center, a woman came in who was supporting eight children alone. Although she came in on a fairly regular basis, I had never met her before. She attended college at night, working toward a degree in nursing.
That day she asked if we offered Christmas gifts, since she had no money to buy any for her children. Gift-giving wasn't one of the services that the crisis center provided, but it was too late in the season to sign up for any of the other social programs.
I hadn't even gathered my own thoughts about Christmas at this point because our income had been considerably smaller that year. However, I remembered that earlier in the day while I was praying, one of my prayers was how I could be more charitable this season despite what I saw as lacking in my family's financial picture.
I had learned from experience that asking God first for what I desire gives me the freedom to enjoy it wisely, confidently, and without fear of being depleted. While acting in this way, I'm not tempted to feel limited. Trusting God becomes a natural part of feeling more confident, and I can become more generous with others from a more spiritual level - without fear and anxiety.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, there's a statement about giving that I have thought about many times over the years. It reads, "Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us" (p. 79). Doing good for others - being charitable and loving - are not only ways I can honor God, but ways to see the Love that is God reflected through acts of kindness.
There was overwhelming compassion for this family. While the woman's food order was being processed and her electric bill was being paid, I asked my supervisor if my husband and I could buy the presents for her children. She agreed. Within five minutes another offer had come in to buy gifts for the four youngest, leaving us with the four older children.
I felt sure this opportunity was a wonderful answer to my prayer that morning. Here was genuine love, so pure and so complete, it could come only from God. The abundance and the joy of God's blessing are not limited to any one family.
We invited some of our friends to join with us, and the response was immediate. There were considerable gifts - from clothing to toys. Eagerly I shopped for the two oldest boys, searching one mall and then another to find exactly what had been on their list. Every child was provided for - and each one of us had thoughtfully provided something for the mom as well.
I don't know when our financial picture changed, or exactly when I was able to finish my own shopping, but I do remember someone sending me, out of generosity, a payment of $600 for what should have been only $100. They had no knowledge of what we had been doing for the other family. I was so grateful. The same Love that provided for this mother searching for an answer to her Christmas was meeting our family's needs as well.
The moral of this story was not hard to figure out. I had been thoughtful in my prayers, which were in fact preparing me to be charitable despite any fears. The right inspirations led the way for solutions that might have at first seemed daunting. But with each suggestion came a desire to know whether it was God that was leading me forward or fear holding me back. Seeing the many ways generosity and joy and love were being expressed, it was easy to see it was God - Love reflected as love.