Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Anonymous Gift

I've mentioned my friend, Ethel, whom I visit in a retirement community. She just turned 93 years old! She told me a wonderful story about an anonymous gift that she received several years ago.

One day, out of the blue, the minister of her church showed up to visit her. In his hands he had an envelope. He told Ethel that he had been given this envelope with the instructions to present it to her without revealing the giver's identity. He was to give her these simple instructions, "Please use this ONLY for your pleasure." THere was also a note inside the envelope that repeated this instruction.

When Ethel opened the envelope she found 25 one hundred dollar bills! There was $2,500 in that envelope!

Ethel was in shock. She simply couldn't believe that someone had given her this money. She had no idea who gave it to her and she has never found out who the mysterious 'giver' was!

Her reaction to the money was not uncommon to people of her generation. Ethel doesn't believe in 'wasting' money. She doesn't believe in frivolous luxuries. She agonized over what to do with the money.

The only part of her story that troubled me was when she said she didn't feel that she deserved the money. She simply couldn't understand why she deserved to be given such a gift. That made me feel sad because she is such a remarkable and warm woman. She was a devoted wife, raised her family and played an important role in her church and community. She had given so much of herself to so many people. Someone wanted her to know that it was noticed and appreciated. It pained me that she didn't feel deserving of such a gift. Believe me when I tell you that she and I discussed this at some length! I really wanted her to take in that she deserved all good things in life and this was but one example.

In the end, Ethel couldn't spend the money on herself as the anonymous giver intended. She simply couldn't overcome the 'thrifty nature' that permeated her life. She chose to increase her tithe to her church and eventually donated all that money to support their ministry. Yet another example of her generous and loving heart.

There are a two things to take away from this story. One is how beautiful it is to be a giving person. The anonymous giver and Ethel both demonstrated this. Each wanted to do something nice for someone other than themselves. Giving to others is a privilege and a blessing.

Another is about the feeling that we don't deserve good things. One of the things that prevents us from having what we want in this life is that we don't feel that we deserve it. I'm not speaking solely of physical or material things. We can feel undeserving of all kinds of things. When we feel we don't deserve things we can actually prevent ourselves from obtaining them.

I'm not talking about being selfish or feeling an unhealthy sense of entitlement. I'm talking about not buying in to feeling unworthy of having what we desire. This is something we need to guard against and work on in ourselves.

This covers both sides of the coin. If we are generous givers and we are open to receiving good things from a feeling of worthiness, we can live a healthy and balanced life!

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