This is my letter of Thanksgiving to my Father for the legacy of generosity he is building.
To My One and Only Poppie,
I don’t know if I’ve told you how much I’ve come to admire your generous spirit. As we were growing up I took for granted the way you selflessly gave to those who were down and out. It wasn’t until recent years I realized not everyone does that. Hurting souls have always found a haven in the Christ in you. Immigrants, homeless, recovering addicts, the elderly, the unfriendly.. Otherwise known as “the least of these”.
I remember being about six years old the first time you picked up a homeless couple. It was a cold winter evening on Airline Highway. The man was pushing the woman in a wheelchair and you offered them a ride. We went by The Salvation Army to find it closed for the night. Instead, you drove them to the place they directed – a wooded area on the edge of a parking lot in a bad part of town. Jordan and I thought their tent was neat. But you knew differently; it was cold. Without hesitation you gave them the old comforters we’d used to keep warm in the van and we said goodbye to our smelly new friends. You went back the next day to take them to a shelter.
That was the first time I understood what it meant to be homeless. We asked a lot of questions about what we’d seen. It made a lasting impression on me. I forever saw the homeless through different eyes. Eyes of compassion and understanding instead of cynicism and entitlement. (Poppie had no recollection of this whatsoever, but it has been etched in mine and Jordan’s cherished memories.)
I can recall many other stories of lives that you touched. You couldn’t afford babysitters so Jordan and I always tagged along with you to visit nursing homes, halfway houses, rehab centers and repair work days. Maybe we didn’t spend our weekends like our other friends did, but I’m so very grateful that you taught us how to live like Jesus as a way of life – not a Sunday school lesson. This wasn’t done out of obligation or preached “because the bible says to do it” and made into a cliche’. It wasn’t religious. This was simply how you taught us to live. To see the need and meet it, even when “silver and gold have I none.”
How many times were you burned? Countless. Yet I’ve never heard you recount those instances. As a child I thought this ordinary – to give to those who eventually stole from or betrayed us. I never questioned why you did it again. It was our “normal”. Now I recognize this for what it is – extraordinary. You display an extraordinary spirit of ceaseless generosity, undeterred by wounds the world has inflicted. You have been forgiven so much that you love much. Never have I known you to hesitate. Your right hand never let the left hand know what it was doing. Thank you for consistently modeling compassion and generosity to us.
I hear of families visiting soup kitchens to show their children how to serve. This is their good work. Poppie, you showed us much more than “good works”. You showed us what it means to lay down your life; investing your time, money, hard labor, and most importantly you heart into people.
I am overwhelmed when I think of the number of lives that you have touched and I pray fervently that I will be like the Jesus that I have seen in you over the years. To give without thought of gain or reward. You gave when you had nothing. But I can only imagine the heavenly crowns you have earned in these sixty years, and how many more you will earn, all to lovingly lay those crowns at the feet of Jesus and how blessed that day will be.
Happy 60th Birthday,