On the way to Mass one morning, my husband and I broke the news to our children that our small Catholic school was struggling. Thinking of the teachers that had left for new jobs because of decreasing enrollment and the challenge of educating 37 children with three remaining teachers, I asked my children to pray for our school.
“Our school needs help, kids,” I stated. “What can we do, Mama?” my daughter asked. “I’m not sure but we have to start by praying for our school community in a special way at Mass today and every day,” I said.
Without missing a beat, Ian, our 8-year-old piped up from the back of the van, “I love our school, Mom. I’m going to pray really hard at Mass today.”
A little unsettled by our morning conversation, our family settled in at Mass.
During the offertory, we watched as the basket was making its way down the pew. Our 2-year-old son, who was in charge of putting our stewardship envelope in the basket that day, began shouting at the top of his voice, “I want it back, I want it back, it hurts so much!”
Cringing with embarrassment, we wrestled the envelope from his fingers and dropped it in the basket as we quieted him down. Later we exchanged the sign of peace with the families behind us, who gave us sympathetic nods and smiles.
After Mass, I commended Ian on his good behavior and prayerful attention at Mass, especially since his brother had been a bit of a handful! What he told me next brought tears to my eyes. “Mom,” he began, “I made a decision about our school today. The first thing is that I am going to make an appointment with Father to ask him, ‘What’s going on with the school?’ The second thing is that I have made a decision. I figured out what to do with my first Communion money.”
This piqued my curiosity, since his plan up until now had been to spend all of his money on an expensive Star Wars toy. Curiously, I awaited his response. “I’m going to give all my first Communion money to the school,” he said. With tears in my eyes, I asked him why. “It’s all I have, Mom, but if we each give all we have, we can make a difference.”
His trusting response and generosity took my breath away. Ian had decided to give away all the money that he thought he owned because he loved his school so much. As I reflected later on that night, I thought about the two events and saw that they were not unconnected. One little boy had put our family offering reluctantly into the basket, shouting “it hurts, give it back” without understanding what the money was intended for. The other decided to give away everything he had because he understood what giving was about.
In my heart, I asked myself, which child am I? The one who tithes regularly because it is expected and yet still finds that it hurts to give? Or am I the child who decides to give with all that I have out of love and knows that my offering can make all the difference?
Our generosity always pales in comparison to the love that God our Father has for each one of us. We can love because he loved us first. We can give because he gave so much to us, out of love for us. My son Ian showed me the value of his “widow’s mite” in his generous choice that day. During this month of Thanksgiving, reflect upon your life and give thanks with a generous heart for the life and love that you have received. Thank you Jesus for opening my heart to giving through the eyes of a child!
Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization. She is the author of “Developing Disciples of Christ” and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”