When I was growing up, my mother did most of her grocery shopping at a BIG STAR grocery store. At the end of her purchase, she usually received some change (cash, you know!) and a run of sticky-backed green paper stamps. That didn’t seem odd at all to me since people regularly looked for stores that extended paper stamps to their customers as a bonus for shopping with them. The stamps were a way for the customer to purchase additional “premium” items not found in the store that extended the stamps. In that way, it was a bit like our modern-day fuel points at Kroger, except that the stamp-purchased items could be anything from a crystal candy dish to an appliance and were most likely ordered from a catalog or redeemed from a small separate Stamp Store where people went with excited eyes and their carefully collected books of stamps to see what they could choose as their reward for spending hard-earned cash on the staples of life.
S&H GREEN stamps and the small books they had to be carefully pasted into are a vivid memory from my childhood. It was a big deal to finally be trusted to wet the sticky back of the stamps and place them into neatly covered rows–and that was IF my mother didn’t claim that privilege for herself. (grin–We had such simple privileges back then!) I remember going with my mother to redeem her books of Green stamps and it always reminded me of Christmas just for her. She looked forward to finally having enough to purchase an item or pick out a new one to begin saving toward. I wasn’t a fan of going grocery shopping, but going to the stamp store? Well, that was a bit like getting to shop inside the Sears Christmas Catalog! (For those of you too young to remember, the Sears Christmas Catalog was our paper-bound version of Amazon in life long before the internet…as long as you didn’t mind waiting and waiting for things to arrive after you ordered them. And, yes, I am way older than I feel! LOL!) It was a sad, sad day when the S&H store finally closed its doors in our home town.
ANYWAY! Over the door leading from my dining room area to the screened back porch there hangs a metal sign with big black and white outlined letters on a background of gold. It is a vintage sign, not a reproduction, that once was part of a grouping of multiple metal signs hung on the side of stores that gave Gold Bond Stamps instead of the Green Stamps of my childhood. I don’t know where it originally came from, but I spotted it several years ago hanging on the side of an antique store/picker barn in rural Georgia. When I asked if it was for sale, then owner looked a bit surprised and began to explain that it wasn’t a “complete” sign since he didn’t have the rest of the signs that originally hung together.
It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted that sign. With the bonus of being painted in the colors of my high school alma mater, the bold message it proclaimed was more than enough.
It simply says, “WE GIVE” and, from the moment I first laid eyes on it, I took it as more than a written tenet of my faith; it became a mandate, a reminder, and a challenge.
After detaching it from the weathered side of the barn, I loaded it up and brought it home to hang over the door we and our guests most often use to enter and leave the house. I don’t know that it really “goes” with anything else in that room–because it was certainly never intended to end up in a dining room!–but it still speaks to me every time I look at it. It matters to me that the sign is original, because our giving should be original and it doesn’t matter to me that it sometimes tilts just a little bit off center because of all the coming and going through the doors because our giving should be active–and it sometimes gets a little off center, as well. (grin)
Over the years I’ve stared up at that sign and thought of all the different ways I could finish that sentence. WE GIVE…
- more than we “have to”
- less than we ought to
- because we GET to
- because we’ve been given so very much
- because we serve the Giver of life and all good things…and because we get to be HIS.
It is that last one that struck me first and strikes me most often still. So many times we think only in terms of money when we consider giving. To be certain, it is often more convenient and far less “risky” than to be involved, to care, to show up, to reach out, or to simply be available for others, but isn’t giving supposed to be personal? I struggle with this as I want to stay hidden and content to do my own work and create my own circle and yet, God continues to prod me into discomfort, at times, so that He can GIVE me the experience of giving HIM to those around me. Money can create distances that isolate and insulate us–and, don’t get me wrong! I’m a fan of both the money and the insulation! In fact, I am perhaps too fond of them, particularly the latter–BUT God didn’t just call us to isolation. We are an important way He shares Himself with the world every single day. IF we refuse to give Him to those around us as we live life together, we become hoarders of the Blessing…and that’s no way to live.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. As we start this brand new week, what will you choose to give to those around you? Could it be a smile, an encouraging word, the gift of a chore done so they won’t have to, an unexpected treat or adventure, a meal, a shared time of prayer, a time of listening, a hug, a paid bill, or a sticky note left where they can see it and be reminded of your appreciation? The opportunities are limitless…and so is the effect…for all of us.
Give some kindness this week. Give something of yourself and the One who created and blessed you so well.
WE GIVE…because we CAN. WE GIVE…because we GET to do so!
Grace and peace!
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to you. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from you, and you are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your own hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:11-14 (CSB)