Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber-Monday Meets Its Match: Generosity and....


I was prepared to pick up where I left off—raising serious questions of concern about materialism, consumerism and the one thing that scares me more than Black Friday—the increased attention to Cyber-Monday.  The Christmas season that has been in full effect since Starbucks released their red paper cups on November 1, has met its match. It shouldn’t be of any great shock or surprise.  Its name is generosity. And its twin sister? Her name is love.

It’s hard to see generosity at times, especially when at least 80 e-mails in my inbox entice me to buy.  I’ll be the first to admit, for every gift I seek to purchase for a family or friend, I find at least two that will suit me.  The markdowns and free shipping make it deceptively easy.  With Notre Dame  completing an undefeated season and a ranking of #1 that will be with us (at least for the next 7 weeks) my urge to purchase that #5 hat (honoring both M'anti T'eo (LB) and Everett Golson (QB) is very strong.  But my conscientious consumption always gets the best of me.  A voice inside my head says Do I need this hat?  No, but I  want it.  What do I really need?  These are simple questions, but  I also think they are important. 

Material goods weigh me down.  And I find that the generous person is remarkably free.  Be it with money, time or resources, the generous person gives without counting the cost.  They are “yes” people.  They make the weight of this world just a little lighter.  I was reminded of them several times in the past week.

One responsibility I seek to avoid is passing around the collection basket at Mass.  A friend asked me at the ninth hour to assist.  It was a lesson in humility for me.  I could not believe how many people gave for not one but two collections!  People went out of their way to make the eye contact I was afraid of making.  Looking at the person handling the basket is awkward when a person doesn't have money to give.  With the tables turned, I was encouraged by how many people looked up with a smile and a donation.
  
And for the past 15 years, members of the SI community kick start the Thanksgiving holiday with a Turkey Trot around Lake Merced.  All proceeds from the event go to the St. AnthonyFoundation—a soup kitchen that serves the poor and marginalized in the Tenderloin.  I once heard that St. Anthony’s doesn’t accept any federal funding—they want to be entirely dependent on the generosity of others. They fulfill the Gospel message, Matthew 6:26  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they? Indeed, it is an organization that people love to support—I hear it repeatedly as I collect the entry fee.  St. Anthony’s makes it easy to be generous! 

I believe that speaks to the beauty of generosity—it looks so easy (even though its often very hard!)  For example, the man who screens all the Turkey Trot T-shirts shirts sells them to me "at cost."  Not only is he generous with his time and talent, he includes a very generous donation of his own to St. Anthony’s with the invoice.  His generosity humbles me.   He doesn’t have to give with our donation, but he does.  That’s generosity.
But how is generosity so closely related to love?  Just today I learned that they have found a bone marrow donor for my former student Ben Aguilar ’11. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, after his first year at University of Arizona. As I wiped away profound tears of joy, I was able to read this “it is a 9 in 10 match. The donor is located in Europe and has agreed to the donation. The marrow will be brought in by the “Be the Match” and Ben's procedure is scheduled for early December.”

This donor is giving something that Black Friday or Cyber Monday could never market or sell. He is giving of himself—literally, figuratively and totally.  And that’s made possible because of generosity and love. 

When I asked a coworker about her experience as a bone marrow donor she said:  You are confronted with a life saving choice—how can you not do it?  I have never looked at her the same way again.  The reality is, you don’t have to.  You never had to take the time to sign up to be a donor.  You never had to give consent.  But you do…she did…Ben’s donor did.  What could be more generous or loving?

I thought of others who had given of themselves and I didn’t have to look far.  I remembered the person who we celebrate in the Christmas season gave of himself literally, figuratively and totally upon the Cross.

So on this Cyber Monday, I have put down my boxing gloves.  Rather than rail against the cost of $90 for a ticket for Row 91 (of 93) in the LA Coliseum (a venue that holds 93,607) or my beloved alma mater who requires even a "baby in arms" needs a ticket in Notre Dame stadium, I’m going to give more thought to how I can be more loving and generous this Christmas season.

Please pray for Ben.  Prayers are being answered!  And I think I still want that hat...

Photo Credits
Thank you E-Castro for Turkey Trot!
Ben Aguilar
Thank you Jim B for the 1962 Ticket
#5 Hat

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