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Lenten Reflection: Giving Alms

Physics Teacher and Esports Coach Charles Miller shared the following reflection about almsgiving (giving) is a way to live out our gratitude for all that God has given us, and as way of showing that we are responsible for each other.

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When I was a kid, my dad told me a quote that completely confused me. It was from then Mother Teresa, and she said, “The poor give us much more than we give them. We don’t have to give them pity.”

At the time, I thought that quote was so weird. Why would a woman who devotes her life to helping the poor and sick say not to feel pity for the poor? To be honest, I spent most of my life confused by that quote. Then my favorite act of charity happened. Is it weird to have a favorite act of charity? Well, I do, and some of you have heard this story before. But I can’t help myself because it means so much to me,

When I defended my master’s thesis, I travelled to Bemidji State where I earned my degree. One of my best friends, Steve ‘Esteban’ Larson, math teacher extraordinaire (who Prep seniors might remember from his time at Prep), travelled with me.  
I should preface this story by saying that both Steve and I traveled around a lot as kids, him as the son of missionaries living around the world and me the son of a young scientist living around the country. Living in New York, I prided myself on my street smarts. So, when we were walking downtown in Bemidji and an obviously intoxicated man came up to us and asked for money for food, my “big city” radar went off and I knew just what to do. I didn’t make eye contact and I kept moving.
But Steve somehow didn’t have the same sense I did. He stopped, asked the man how he was doing, and if he liked soup. He walked over to a restaurant across the street and bought him some soup and bread in to-go containers. The man accepted the food, and we went on our way, neither late nor short on money.

The reason this is my favorite act of almsgiving is because there were two people in need in this story. The man on the street got food, but I was served an example of what it means to treat those less fortunate than myself as humans instead of as a threat. From that day on, I changed the way I see people, and it’s made me a better person.
Before that, I taught my kids to cross to the other side of the street and to avoid people and avoid trouble. Now I teach my kids save some food aside when we eat out in a town with a large homeless population and get a “to go” box to give away back to the hotel.

Last summer, I would go for runs at my parents’ house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sometimes I would stop for a donut on my way back to their home after my run. I would buy extra and hand them out to anyone I encountered who looked like they may want a donut.
I would ask, “could you use a donut? I bought extra and wouldn’t want them to go to waste.” I usually got a smile and “no thanks”. But one time the reply was, “God will provide generously all my needs. You are an angel, thank you.” That came from a man and his dog who had obviously spent the night together on the street. I was embarrassed, and thanked HIM for helping me with the donuts, and went on my way.

The reason Steve Larson’s act of almsgiving was my favorite is that it helped me fill a hole in my life. I never realized until that moment how much helping others in their time of need helps me in mine.

Whenever life starts to look too dark or I’m feeling really bad about things, I now stop and think “what I have done for others today?” And it’s in those moments I always see someone reaching out that I otherwise would have walked by.

One final quote from the now Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”
We don’t have to look far to find people feeling that kind of poverty at all. All we have to do is be willing to see them, and brave enough to reach out a hand in kindness.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Larson are seen here while enjoying some of their many adventures together.

Charles Miller And Stephen Larson