“When dealing with others, be gentle and kind …” So wrote Lao Tzu as we posted several weeks ago when we presented verse 8 of the Tao Te Ching. The more I think about that single sentence, the more I am moved to action. A year ago, Deacon Ken McNealy, permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Tucson delivered a thoughtful homily to the Redemptorist Community in Picture Rocks. It was one of those life-changing talks that smack a person squarely between the eyes. In his humble way, Deacon Ken discussed everyman’s inclination to ignore the homeless man on the corner, to pretend he is not there. We are all guilty of avoiding the panhandler with our eyes as well as with our goodwill and our wallets. Ever since listening to that talk, I go out of my way to give whatever I have to that broken man or woman. No questions asked. It’s just another way to fulfill the fourth sacred Zia obligation: a devotion to the welfare of others. Sometimes, all I have to give is a smile and an encouraging word. It always seems to be enough.
As recorded by Matthew [6:3], Jesus tells us, “But when you give alms, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Keep you giving secret and God will reward you openly for your kindness.” With that advice in mind, I’ll not discuss my “giving agenda.” Rather, I’ll comment that your mailbox, like mine is probably a magnet for charitable organizations, and there are hundreds more you can find on the Internet from all parts of the world.
Monetarily, I have a finite amount to give and that influences me to be discriminate with my giving. From my perspective, for example, my giving is probably better served when offered to a starving child or an unemployed mother struggling to survive than it is to a wealthy alumni group so it can build a multi-gazillion dollar fitness facility on an elite college campus. Again, each man makes his own choice in that regard.
The Vitruvian Man, however, is always alert for opportunities to help another man improve his life. I would ask that you begin to consciously look for those opportunitites that occur every day in your life. Every man has something to give be it a wheelbarrow full of money to a hungry family or a word of encouragement to the homeless man on the street corner; from an unused baby stroller to the unwed mother, to even a smile to the guy driving the brand new Mercedes who may be disguising his troubles with his expensive car.
As of June 2011, the price of a single pack of cigarettes ranges from $11.90 in New York to $4.74 in West Virginia. In my state of Arizona, they are nearly seven bucks a pop. Put these numbers in the scale: for $16.40 — the price of two-and-a-half packs of cigarettes — a person can sponsor two tables each seating four people at the Tucson Gospel Rescue Mission‘s Thanksgiving Meal. That is yet another good reason to quit smoking. Save yourself and put a smile on the faces of eight homeless folks at the same time!
Be gentle and kind, stay devoted to the welfare of others and give all you can. That immediately makes the world a better place.