It’s that time of year again. We live across the street from the neighborhood clubhouse and it is busy almost every day with parties and events for people who are graduating to the next level of their education. Whether it is junior high to high high school, or high school to college, families are celebrating the transitions in the lives of their children.
I can’t help but be reminded of the graduations that I celebrated as a young person. We didn’t have a large family, but my maternal grandparents and Auntie Lou were always a part of whatever we did. Auntie Lou never married and she lived with my grandparents. When Grandma was only 2 years old, her own mother died and her aunt, Lou’s mother, helped raise her. Eventually, when Lou’s (her real name was Louise) own parents passed away, my grandfather, in grateful appreciation for all the help the family had provided, invited Louise to live with them. So my mother, also a Louise and named after Auntie Lou, had the benefit of living with her Mom and Dad, as well as her aunt. They were very close and, of course, as my brothers and I came along, Auntie Lou was as much a member of the family as anyone else.
I was the oldest and she always made me feel special – whether it was playing games or just sitting in her room and talking. I remember the desk she had in her room and how I stored all my games in her closet. The truth be told, I loved her as much, if not more, as my grandmother. I always felt very close to her. She even helped me learn how to read and I would head to her room every time I came to the house to see her first.
As a child, it never occurred to me that Auntie Lou didn’t have any real means of support other than my grandparents. Sometimes she would decline the chance to go to dinner with us, but I never realized that it was because she felt bad that she couldn’t ever pay her own way. I am sure that her parents must have left her some inheritance, but I know she was very careful about whatever she bought and she certainly didn’t have the kind of wardrobe or things that the rest of the family had. I’m sure that Grandma and Grandpa would have provided anything she wanted or needed, but Auntie Lou never wanted to impose. It was a real sacrifice for her to participate or give gifts to others.
As a child, in all honesty, I never appreciated the gifts that Auntie Lou gave me. They were never the cool things that other family members bought and as I look back on my birthdays and graduations I am sure that I never showed my appreciation properly. For some reason, I was thinking about all this last evening and I actually dreamed about one of the gifts that I received from her as part of a graduation.
I remember that Auntie Lou gave me three dollars and there was a brush that I really had my eye on. I was excited when I now had enough money to purchase this inexpensive hair brush. It wasn’t anything super special, but I had always wanted one and now was my chance. I pooled my money from Auntie Lou with two other dollars I received as another gift and purchased the brush. As fate would have it, Auntie Lou asked me what I had done with the gift money and I let her now that I had added the money to another gift and bought a brush. I could tell that she was a little sad.
She went to her little coin purse and counted out another two dollars, saying that she really wanted the brush to be her gift to me. At the time I was excited to get more money but I quickly realized that it was important for her to feel that the gift was from her and that I shouldn’t have to use other money to get something I wanted. I could tell that she was a little sad and the more I thought about it the more I realized that I had hurt her feelings. Sure she wanted me to get something with her money, but she was embarrassed that she couldn’t really afford to give me enough money to buy the brush. I have no idea what she had to sacrifice to come up with that other two dollars.
I think I finally lied and told her that I was mistaken about the price and that the money she had given me was enough for this very cool gift. But I learned a very important lesson that day. I had been focused on the magnitude of the gift and not on the love and thoughtfulness of Auntie Lou. I don’t think I ever made that mistake again.
There is a Bible story Jesus tells us that is very similar to my experience with Auntie Lou. It has to do with the money that the rich people gave at the temple. But then an old woman brings 2 small coins, called mites, into the temple. And this is all that she could give – notice that it was more than she could afford. That old woman might just as well have been my Auntie Lou. She always gave more than she had and she was painfully aware of her inability to provide for herself without help.
The verse for this evening is from Luke 21:1-4, “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” I know what He meant. My encouragement this evening is that we all can fall prey to the size of our gifts and not consider the circumstances of the giver and how the love and thoughtfulness are far more important than the size of the gift. But Jesus isn’t concerned with the size of our gifts – He looks at our hearts – and that is how He measures our giving. My prayer is that you will give adequate care and consideration to the gifts that you give – as well as appreciation for the gifts that you receive, as you consider the true meaning of giving. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…