Just One Step to a More Generous Community

Step 1 of 1: Gratitude

I could end the blog with that one word. But I’ll continue and hit a higher word count so I get invited back to write again.

With the annual appeal around the corner, we might find ourselves feeling as if we’re just banging on a rock and expecting water to start flowing. “We just finished asking for Christmas flower donations … and before that it was the roof repair … plus the boiler system doesn’t have too much life left in it … and our weekly collections have already dropped.” If you’re like me and you have a fundraising-phobia, phrases like “Annual Appeal” or “Stewardship Weekend” or “Emergency Fund Deficit” make your palms a little sweaty – especially if you’re thinking of your audience as tapped-out stones. Or perhaps you have your own type of “annual appeal,” when you’re looking for catechists, or for someone to help with that retreat where you’re two chaperones short. Well, the stone plan worked for Moses, so why not grab your stick and bang away?

That might work. It might. But there’s always the option of softening the stones (and reminding ourselves that they’re not actually stones). So, back to the one-step plan.

Gratitude: knowing that all that we are and all that we have is a gift – a gift that we did not give to ourselves. So if it is a gift that did not come from us, it does not belong to us. Our talents, our strengths, our family, our job, our coworkers, our home, our car, the meal on our table … all is a gift. St. Catherine of Siena says it more eloquently:

“Selfish love makes us unappreciative and ungrateful because we attribute all we have to our own shrewdness. And what is the evidence? Our ingratitude, shown in the sins we commit every day. Gratitude, on the other hand, is proof that we are attributing to God alone all that we have.”  Letter T96, St. Catherine of Siena

If all that we are and all that we have is a gift from God, that makes us the caretakers of these gifts. They are not mine to begin with, so there’s no reason to clutch them so tightly. The driving worldview of a grateful person is: “It comes from the Lord and belongs to the Lord, so how can I show thanks?” A grateful soul is a generous giver.

Well, we’re not there yet. Any baby steps within Step 1 of 1?

Baby Step #1: Pray

Imbue our prayer with a spirit of thanksgiving. Begin with our personal prayer, and extend it into the prayers that we lead with others. As we go the Lord with our needs and petitions, recognize that every beat of our heart and every person in our life is an abundant blessing. Praise Him for it and give Him thanks. In every prayer. Prayer will begin to change us…

Baby Step #2: Speak

I was born in Kentucky and lived there just long enough to claim a great expression the locals used all the time: “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.” (“Creek” pronounced “crick,” of course.) There’s a deep theological truth in that expression: every step of our day is a gift from God and we are forever dependent on His mercy and His permissive will. It is a challenge, but we should allow our theology to imbue and pervade our everyday conversations. If someone were to eavesdrop on you, would they hear words of thanks to our provident God? Would they hear it in our halls, our meetings, our phone calls? Would they hear words of thanks and appreciation to each other? The good news is that gratitude is contagious, so we can start with small comments and see where it goes. And hey, even famous Catholics are doing it!

Baby Step #3: Invite

Don’t be afraid to ask. You are giving others an opportunity to show love to the Giver of Life. When we invite someone to volunteer, participate, or give, we are inviting them to enter more deeply into the mission of the Church. We are inviting them to live the virtue of generosity. That’s a good thing, not something to be timid about. If you think back to how you got into Church ministry, it probably is due to a series of invitations. So invite away, invite often, and invite with enthusiasm! And who knows, one day they may be very grateful you asked.

How have you seen the power of gratitude in your life and in your parish? Do you have any tips for how to foster a more generous parish?

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