I read an article back in January about the actor, Patton Oswalt. Oswalt had received a harsh comment on Twitter by a man named Michael Beatty. I won’t rehash the whole story since you can read what’s already been written, but in the end, here’s what happened: Oswalt did a little looking into the life of the man who trolled him and discovered he’d recently been very ill and had a GoFundMe campaign to help with his medical bills. Oswalt donated $2,000 himself toward the goal of $5,000 and then challenged his Twitter followers to help the man too. As of the 25th of March, 2,316 people have donated for a total of $47,785, many leaving encouraging comments for a man they only know through this incident. Michael was not only deeply touched and brought to tears, he admitted that his words on Twitter were, in fact, harmful. You can read more by simply searching “Patton Oswalt and Michael Beatty.”
Generosity like this, generosity that truly expects nothing in return, is extremely powerful and creates a sweet vulnerability in the recipient. Beatty responded, “Patton, you have humbled me to the point where I can barely compose my words.” Perhaps you’re thinking, “Right, but I will never be able to donate $2,000 and encourage my 4.47 million Twitter followers to donate like he did.” Most of us probably can’t replicate Oswalt’s actions, but that doesn’t limit the opportunity to witness the power of generosity in our own lives and the lives of those to whom we give.
Let me tell you what generosity has looked like in our lives recently. Our first son was born in August 2018. Before he even got here, generosity looked like a car full of hand-me-down baby items that were sent from a friend: a highchair, booster seat, swing, jumperoo, bouncy seat, Bumbo seat, baby-carrier backpack, pack-n-play, and more. All the paraphernalia that one needs for a baby was simply handed down to us. We use it all, and most of it gets used everyday. And I still feel a sense of vulnerability when I think about how much that family blessed us.
In other moments generosity has looked like bags of hand-me-down clothes and toys, an Amazon gift card for no specific reason, a card in the mail with money for a date night, free babysitting so that we could slip away for a couple of hours alone, new toys for our son when a friend’s son received duplicates at Christmas, and many other examples. Each time we are the recipient of generosity, I grapple with that vulnerability – knowing that we cannot repay the generosity, while also recognizing that the giver also had no expectations of anything in return.
Being generous can bring change in our own hearts, but it’s not only about what you personally receive from your generosity. It’s about the power that’s released from that act into the lives of everyone connected to that situation. Even reading about such events make us feel good and gives us hope! The vulnerability caused by generosity may encourage the recipients to evaluate their own lives, open up their heart more to you, or simply rejoice at a great weight that has been lifted off their shoulders. Generosity changes you, changes the recipient, and changes the relationship for the better.
I can’t say what motivation Patton Oswalt might have for such a gesture, but if you are a follower of Christ, you have the greatest motivation of all to be generous. Jesus gave His life and modeled unmerited, irrational generosity toward us. While you may never give your life or be able to donate $2,000 and share it with 4.47 million Twitter followers, you can do some practical things to be generous to those around you for the glory of God. You have time, talents, and treasures and you may choose to share any and all of those! Here’s just a few ideas:
- Fill a box with non-perishable food and give it to a family you know may be struggling.
- Deliver (or have delivered) take-out to a family who might need a breather from life.
- Find a family which has kids just a bit younger than yours and pass all your hand-me-downs to that family – clothes, shoes, books, and toys!
- Pick a family in your church who lives far from their extended family, or perhaps an overseas missionary family, and learn their birthdays. Make sure that you always send cards or find small ways to recognize their special day.
- Offer to watch someone else’s kids on a regular basis, even if it’s just once a month. Think especially about those who don’t have the help of an extended family.
- Be a substitute aunt, uncle, grandma, or grandpa for those who don’t have or can’t see their relatives often.
- Offer to use a talent you have to help a person or family you know (take photos of their family, do handyman work in their home, cook for them, organize or even clean for/with them, help them make a financial plan for their family, do yard work, teach them a skill you know, etc.)
Has anyone in your life been especially generous to you? If so, what did they do and how did it affect you? Share with us in the comments!
Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash