Why I Give: by Derek

Hello! First, I’m going to remember that this is why “I” give–not why anyone else might.  We come from many paths to gather here, after all. But that is an important part of why I give–because I remember how I came to this fellowship and what that has come to mean to me.

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes and the Byrds, there is a time for giving, and time for keeping your wallet locked down tight because it’s been seven months since your last paycheck. After the clean energy research start-up I moved out to New Jersey from California for and I parted ways in April 2014, not without more than a little drama, it was a rough time! Fortunately, I had met my partner Nick, who finally got my confidence up through mock interviews so that I was able to “fake it until I make it” and land a contractor position.

Connecting with people who are different is a great way to grow, and Nick and I are very different. What stood out on Sunday mornings was how he would go to Russian Orthodox services, while I, as an atheist, didn’t see that as such a good fit. But Nick inspired me to find the right sort of faith community for me, and so on my 35th birthday, a year after my falling out with my old job and a few months into my new one, I showed up at a U.U. Spirit Talk feeling pretty good about life professionally and personally. It was time to grow spiritually, and maybe give back a little now that life was feeling a lot brighter.

Now, even though Nick is the believer, we still compete in Biblical literacy. I went to Sunday school as a kid and learned this lesson as “Don’t plunk your coins to look like a big shot.” This and other sayings I often explain to Nick with much delight because then I look like a Bible bigshot. This story is commonly known as “The Widow’s Offering,” from the Gospel of Mark 12: 41-44:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.

42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

My takeaway for why I give from that story is not to give everything—we’re still a very sensible fellowship here. Rather, what the widow gave had real meaning to her.

Whether it’s time, talent, or treasure, I give to connect and find meaning in my spiritual journey because I get back so much. And because being able to give has a lot of meaning to me, because I remember when I was a stressball about not being able to give.

From people like Barb and Jen, and from our kids giving their amazing credos, I was inspired to become a Big Brother and teach Religious Exploration–and even OWL. I’m inspired by others in the Fellowship who I know are currently going through hard financial times themselves, and still sacrifice to strengthen our beloved community in so many ways.  

And I see inspiration beyond the Fellowship.

Every week, when NIck and I visit our 91 year old neighbor Grandma Gen, she doesn’t let us leave without handing us an envelope of coupons she has clipped for us during the week, together with the Michael’s ad in case there are any crafts I want to try with my little brother. It doesn’t cost her anything, but it is truly an act of love that shows she cares and that our visits have meaning for her.  

Louis Armstrong sang–

“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also in the faces of people passing by.
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do.
They’re really saying, I love you.”

The pledges we make to the Fellowship are echoing that sentiment. Just like the widow of Jesus’ time, and the wisecracking widow who lives next door to me and Nick, I give because it has meaning, a meaning of love and support within this beloved community and beyond.

Derek S.