by Abraham McIntyre, Chief Volunteer Officer, Appalachia Service Project
It is your turn to give a gift. Unfortunately, we give you no guarantee that you will receive a thank you, an “atta-boy,” or even a handshake of appreciation. This is one of those times where you simply say, “Here, I made this. Do with it as you will.” I always love to see the Gospel shared in secular media. As I read Seth Godin’s book, What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn), I couldn’t shake the beautiful truth of his words. He reminds us that the best gift requires little of the recipient, a gift of grace. I’m sure most of us can unfortunately recall giving, what we thought was, a really great Christmas present. Only to have our best friend look at us with a blank stare and muster a meek, “Thanks…I guess?” Do I even need to remind you of the sweater that your Grandmother so proudly made for you that you would have never been caught dead wearing in public? Those are not fond memories for either party.
Here’s the bottom line though: issues arise when we put obligations and expectations on the recipients of our gifts and they fail to meet them, thus giving us an excuse not to give anymore. However, that concept gets thrown out the door when you put “gifts” in the context of grace. Since 1969, Appalachia Service Project (ASP) has given grace gifts to over 17,000 families in Central Appalachia. These gifts have come in the form of new roofs, doors, floors, windows, and more. Gifts of running water, safe electrical wiring, and septic tanks all given without any obligation. Grace is, “generous, free, totally unexpected and undeserved,” per our Wesley upbringing. What a blessing to be able to attest that these are the words that are shared when talking with the homeowners we have served over the past 48 years.
While there have never been any obligations stated in our agreement for home repair, we continue to offer our families an invitation to serve alongside our volunteers. While Jesus reminded us that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” as in any transaction there are two sides to the parable. Just as ASP provides an amazing opportunity for persons to receive critical home repair, we also give those receiving gifts the opportunity to also give by sharing a story, hammering nails in their new home’s siding, or digging a foot or twenty of their new drainage ditch. Many of us have heard, “I came to give and I ended up receiving way more than I gave.” This amazing fact of life and love is lived out many times over as people from across the world come to serve with ASP and have their lives changed by grace. It is in the sharing that we grow together.
I leave you with an encouraging and challenging quote from Godin, “It’s not your turn to win, or your turn to be picked, or even your turn to be guaranteed gratitude…it’s merely your turn to give a gift.”
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