Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stewardship, Service & the Sacrifice of Giving

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. - Winston Churchill

Yesterday was Veteran's Day. In all honesty, I can't say that Veteran's Day ever feels like much of a "holiday" for me, as it's a normal workday for those of us in the retail biz. And yesterday definitely didn't feel like a holiday since I had a very long, hard day at work. However, in the midst of my invoice reconciling & ad work the following thoughts started "percolating" in my over-caffeinated mind.

I remembered a conversation I had with my dad a few months back about the idea of stewardship. We were sitting in a funeral parlor following my great aunt Maggie's funeral, and our conversation turned to the eulogy he delivered during her service. My great aunt was an amazing woman...a devoted steward to her church, her community and her family. The eulogy (which was beautiful) centered around her stewardship and the grace with which she shared her gifts with everyone in her life.

The problem with stewardship is that it is often thought about in just a financial sense. In a religious setting it's usually used to refer to tithing or other financial gifts to the church -- and as a devoted & lifelong member of her church, Maggie was no stranger to this form of giving. However, true stewardship is more than just financial giving. True stewards are caretakers...servants giving of their resources, their time and their talents. This kind of giving is where Maggie and other true stewards like her shine.

Maggie was 84 when she passed away this August. She never married, never had children; yet on thing she didn't lack was family. Her 'family' reached far beyond her large extended family of her mother, aunt, sister/brother-in-law, nieces/nephews, great-nieces/ also included her friends (of which she had many), her church fellowship, her former students (she taught for years), and many more. To this large family, she gave so much. For years she volunteered at the church; she worked with literacy groups teaching adults to read; she sat on boards & sang in choirs. Every week (until about the last year of her life) she would even drive to her hairdresser's house to pick the hairdresser up and take her to the salon, where she would then get her hair set! Wherever -- however -- she was needed, she was there for her family.

Her stewardship was also evident in the grace with which she welcomed others -- family, strangers & otherwise -- into her home. It was evident in the way in which she cared for her home. She appreciated her blessings in life & took care of them & shared them with others. This grace and this sacrifice to others made her a true steward and one to be both admired & emulated.

So what does this have to do with Veteran's Day, you ask? In thinking about stewardship as "caring for" and therefore a form of service, I started to see the relationship to those serving in the military.

In a sort of "stream-of-consciousness move" my brain shifted from thinking about my great aunt to two other relatives who also passed in the last year. In June 2008 I lost my grandfather (or my "Papaw" as we say in eastern Kentucky), and this September I lost my great uncle, "Uncle Bob." Both men were of my great aunt Maggie's generation, and both men served in World War II. They both sacrificed family & the comforts of home to serve their country in a time of need. Papaw even earned four Bronze Stars for his service as a medical technician during the war.

So in making this arc between my relatives & their respective gifts of service, I started to see the parallels...or better yet the convergence of stewardship and service (in the military sense). Stewards take on the responsibility of caring for, protecting and serving that which is placed in their care (be it their church, family, home, community). At the same time, those in the military take on the same responsibilities for their country, their fellow soldiers, and those they are charged to defend/protect. Veterans become stewards of the country and/or our ideals; and stewards become defenders & protectors of the blessings they are given. They overlap, and the common area is the sacrifice of giving.

Maggie, Papaw, and Uncle Bob all made sacrifices in order to give. The two men made sacrifices in the war; Maggie made sacrifices at home. All served in their own ways, with their own gifts. And each should be remembered for those gifts they gave. So yesterday, I remembered not only the Veterans that have served our country, but I also remembered those that serve in so many other ways. It was also a good reminder of the need to do more myself. I need to be more gracious. I need to be more mindful of the blessings I have. I need to serve my community more. I have great role models in my family & in the greater community. I need to follow their lead. We all probably do.

To all who serve, thank you.

"Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving." Acts 20:35

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