A couple times a week, I receive an email from MoodNudges. Each email has a little story and a tip for nudging the mood up just a little bit. They are powerful pieces, and I smile when I see the familiar name in my Inbox. The nudge I received this morning was about generosity:
Do you need to be well-heeled to be generous? Actually, I reckon money has precious little to do with it.
You can be generous with your praise.
A Mum, Dad and their four young children sat at the next table to me at breakfast one morning. The youngest occupied a high chair, all were impeccably behaved, so I complimented the parents as I got up to leave. Although it was no more than a few words from me, a total stranger, Mum and Dad looked momentarily surprised, then beamed in pride.
He continues by offering other intangibles as ways we can be generous: with our time, with our attention, with our love.
This reminded me very powerfully of work that children do in the Atrium, as a part of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd Atrium is for children roughly aged three to six, where they encounter, befriend, and fall in love with Jesus the Good Shepherd. Where these persons are on their spiritual journey, they don’t understand the concept of sacrifice. So instead of saying “Jesus sacrifices his life for the sheep,” we use the language of gifts instead. The Good Shepherd gives us all his love, all his attention, all his time, all his life. We have all experienced an earthly parent or teacher or sibling who didn’t have time or attention for us, at least once. There’s that day Mom is on the phone, and we want something, and she snaps at us to leave her alone. But the Good Shepherd – he never does this. He gives us all of his time, all of his attention, all of his love.
It was humbling to receive this lesson in our training as Catechists, to think of all those times we failed to be generous with our time and attention and love. But then there is Maundy Thursday, when Jesus gives us the new commandment – the five new words added to the central commandment: love one another as I have loved you. We are commanded to give the same generosity that is described in today’s MoodNudge – to be generous with our time, with our attention, with our praise, with our love – because that is how the Good Shepherd loves us.
I confess that I prefer to reflect on the Good Shepherd and his gifts, rather than the sacrifice. This may even better reflect the gifts and grace of our infinite God, who never runs out of life to give, who never runs out of love and time and attention for us. And while we may run out of time and have limits on our attention, Jesus the Good Shepherd makes sure that we never run out of love. It is the one thing there is where when you pour it out for others, you are filled to a capacity even larger than you had before.