When we hear that word, give, what happens to our psyche? Some of us may tighten up and get defensive. Or, we may get warm feelings from memories of birthdays or Christmas time. But how many of us are passionate about giving.
Giving what? Whatever you want. Whatever you need to. Whatever you have that you would be delighted to give to someone else who could use what you have or may really need what you have to offer.
The saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” is not a proverb that a wise person created to teach children. We heard it first from the Apostle Paul quoting Jesus.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” what a simple statement. However, few attempt it and even fewer have mastered it. What a joy it is to be around those who try. Not simply because by proximity, you may be a recipient of the giving, but because there is something, I dare say supernatural about giving.
Giving is not natural to our contemporary world, not without some sort of return expected which is not giving but an investment.
Yet, there is something inside of us that knows that giving is “good.” Good in the purest sense of the word.
Why is that?
Our Creator, Our God is a giver. We are made in his image. Oh, there has been a curse of sin that tries to darken the light bearer that we are, but that is what we are. Created in the image of the One who gives and so when we fulfill our purpose of image bearing and act as a giver, it is not natural but supernatural. It is the light of the gospel made manifest to the world. It is us being the city on the hill.
So you see, it is a pleasure being around those who master giving because of this light, because of the image that they bear. I heard a pastor once say, “Jesus was the most joyful person ever because he was the most generous person ever.” And to use that rationale, those who are most generous tend to be the most joyful to be around.
I have just a small few people in my life who are like this.
I had the wonderful experience of adding one more earlier this month. Let me tell you about it.
My son Mac was born in 2010 surprisingly without his right forearm/hand.
My and my wife’s faith in God’s sovereignty and goodness grew immediately as we were held up by God’s Holy Spirit and God’s people, the church.
Also, with my endearment to baseball as a boy, I remember watching Jim Abbott with a similar birth, pitch a no-hitter for the Yankees and play for other teams, using his patented fielding style holding the glove under Jim’s right arm until the ball was released and then switching the glove to his left hand to field cleanly.
My son Mac, quickly proved to us that he would be just fine and we received the pleasure of seeing the blessing of stubbornness and determination in our Son as he excelled in whatever he wanted to.
But still, the questions are there, the social awkwardness, stares, offensiveness and a parent’s defensiveness. Sometimes Mac has been tough for us, others Cassie has been tough for Mac and me, and a few times I hope they have been able to lean on me.
There are wonderful communities like Scottish Rite in DFW, but it is not realistic for us to be consistently present there.
Last year, as grandparents do, my mother – Mac’s Nanny, was talking all about her grandkids to people at her work and we were introduced to the possibility by someone that she was talking to wanted to help us get in contact with Jim Abbott, so that there might be some wisdom and encouragement there.
Are you kidding me?!
A childhood hero of mine wanted to speak to my Son, Mac!!!
Both were true to their word. The connection was made and Jim Abbott called us, sent a letter to Mac, and signed pictures and cards, and Mac had someone “like him,” to look up to. To hear the words from someone like him, say, “Don’t ever give up”.
End of story. It was awesome. Call it a day.
Except that was not enough for our friend who kept wanting to “give” to my son Mac.
His thought was, Mac has to see Jim Abbott in person, and he thought “this could change his life.”
Well, we live west of Fort Worth and Jim Abbott isn’t driving through Mineral Wells any time soon.
How about going to a University of Michigan football game (where both our Good Samaritan and Jim Abbott are alumni) where Mac can meet up with Jim Abbott?!!!
I was told, “See if Jim Abbott will be at any Michigan games, and we will meet him there.”
If you know me, I have a hesitancy to drive to the mall thinking, “Will our car make it?” “Do we really need to spend money on this?”
Can you wrap your mind around someone you do not know, someone who does not owe you anything, someone who does not need anything that you might have, and you cannot repay, not only completely covering the cost of a trip like this but making the emotional connection and investment to make this trip happen.
Not only is the money a concept that I cannot understand, but how many of us have never thought about the impact that any sort of gesture could make to someone else, let alone a complete stranger.
Now to take it multiple steps further, we (My mom, Mac, and I) were met at the airport boarding passes in hand. We were guided through the airport and made it to Detroit where our host prepared our rental car and then drove us to Ann Arbor where he had arranged our hotel. Thoroughly providing for our trip, first thing in the morning on game day, his family was preparing our tailgating spot so all that we had to do was come to the stadium and enjoy eating chili and the environment of 110,000 Blue faithful at “The Big House,” as we waited for our encounter with Mr. Abbott.
Jim, of course, was not bribed or tugged into this. Jim was so encouraging leading up to this point and assuring that he would love to meet Mac. This very morning Jim was emailing and texting me to make sure that we would be at the right place and right time, he was pursuing Mac, I did not have to “remind” him or hope that it would work out.
Then the moment that our friend had invested so much in and we had held our excitement in for so long came, Jim and his wife found where we were and I got to watch my son and Jim chat, get to know one another, play catch, share some stories, and Jim get down on one knee and give a pointer or two to Mac.
Our friend sat back and enjoyed seeing what he wanted to see all along, simply a boy getting a gift, an amazing gift. But that’s what we were all there for, a boy receiving not a box with wrapping and a bow on it or a gift card but a vision of possibility and encouragement, strength.
Hundreds of people around us tailgating knew what was going on: not a celebrity signing autograph but a memory that not only will not be forgotten but a memory that could galvanize the will for a young boy. The surrounding fans of Michigan, who knew that one of their favorite sons was near, did not interrupt but kindly respected the moment, as one man put it, “all these grown men, jealous of an 8-year-old.”
Everything else, and that is a big “everything else”, (50-yard line seats near the players’ entrance to the Michigan game, not only watching Jim Abbott’s daughter play volleyball later, but Mac got to go on the court and receive an autographed volleyball, etc. Seriously I could go on and on) but all “everything else” was icing on a very amazing cake.
I say that because as any parent knows, there is just something amazing about making your child smile and 100 out of 100 times, a parent would choose that something miraculous would happen to their child over themselves.
So when someone gives a trip like this to your family and gives this gift to your son, what is there to do?
To Paul Janiak, thank you so much for a trip that will not be stopped talking about. Thank you for caring about Mac. Thank you for all that you gave.
Thanks to Thomas Janiak and Joe Janiak for your hard work hosting us and creating an unforgettable tailgating experience.
Thanks to Mrs. Janiak for sacrificing your football ticket and your husband for the weekend.
Of course thanks to Mr. Jim Abbott for being a trailblazer and a role model and just a genuinely great guy to spend that time with a child.
Thanks to everyone else in Ann Arbor as we got to meet and spend time with some great people being a member of the Michigan Wolverines for the weekend and a fan for the future. Go Blue!