I was sitting at a table a month ago across from a pastor who had grown up in India and who had recently moved to America.
“You have NO RELATIONSHIPS in this country,” he said.
He unpacked this statement with many examples, two of which had to do with families. In his collectivist culture, elders move in with their children in old age, and children rejoice in the provision of their parents for education, weddings, etc. In OUR individualist culture, he observed, parents are shamed for depending on their children in old age, and move into retirement homes by themselves. Children are shamed for relying on their parents to pay for college, and work multiple jobs or take out loans to avoid having to ask. As a result, we do not know each other because we have pursued every possible option other than the interdependence that would fuel increased connection.
As we approach Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday, and in light of this pastor’s cultural observations, it is interesting to reflect on Jesus’s words recorded in Acts 20:35 that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” It seems to me that all genuine and healthy relationships are marked by GENEROSITY. Friends speak and act kindly to one another, not out of obligation, but out of a simple desire to. Spouses, at their best, love, serve, and sacrifice for each other not because they have to, but because they want to. This goodness of relationship is characterized by a heart that overflows with generous love toward another. Our open-handed, joyful, other-loving generosity builds trust, encourages reciprocity, expresses grace, and all of this BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS.
Our divided world so desperately needs more healthy and functional relationships. Our cities and neighborhoods are suffering not just from material poverty, but from relational poverty as well. We don’t know each other, and therefore, we don’t help each other, and those with needs are disconnected from those with the resources to help. Likewise those with the resources to help don’t know those in need or where to give or how to serve, and as a result we are left in lonely silos, just like my pastor friend observed. We need each other. And perhaps generosity is the key to building these relationships that could repair our world and heal our loneliness.
At The Mission Cincinnati, alleviating relational poverty is one of our central goals. We are blessed to be in relationship with many other ministry partners across our city and country. As we prepare for Giving Tuesday, we wanted to take a few days to highlight some of these ministry partners, so that you can get to know them too, so that you can give to support their needs, and so that as a result, you can build new relationships strengthened by generosity. So over the coming weeks, make sure to stay tuned to our Facebook page as we share stories and needs from some of our partner organizations. Maybe one or two will touch your heart and God will lead you to give to support their work. And maybe as a result you will build a relationship, make a friend, step into service and experience the truth of Christ’s words that it really is more blessed to give than to receive!