Tag Archives: generosity

A Lesson on Generosity

Today as I was walking to meet a friend for brunch, I caught myself looking at the elderly men and women selling tissue packets near the train station and I was so overwhelmed with emotion thinking about the relative poverty that my fellow Singaporeans were facing. It was too much for me (someone who actually had money to give away) to deal with… So, I reacted in the only way I knew how: I didn’t give any money, I smiled and walked on, throwing all emotions to the wind.

Two hours later, I found myself with a lost wallet. I immediately went into a “OMG! I could have given the cash to all those who needed it” mood.

So I prayed (with St. Anthony of Padua’s intercession) and said, if I found it, I’ll give the money in my wallet to whoever needed it.

I did find it. A kind staff member at Starbucks Singapore found it and kept it in a safe for me.

And here’s the despicable bit: Seconds after I regained possession of my wallet, I caught myself debating whether or not I should really give the money away.

God, help my poor and stingy soul!
Here you are — the Creator of all things, the Giver of all life, existence Itself — dying for an insignificant person like me every single day especially when I sin against You; and here I am being stingy with the gifts you have given me, the gifts which I have in no way deserved.

I did give the money away. I didn’t need it today. Maybe the person I gave it to needed it more than me.

Back to the emotions I felt in the morning. Walking away didn’t solve anything. God gave me so much and yet I couldn’t share my gifts with others because of the hardness of my heart. I failed to be a good neighbor and I failed to see the dignity of the human person in others.
All I had to do was be the change I wanted to see in the world.

What a humbling experience, and what a lesson on charity.

The Last Shall Be First

Mark 10:28-31

This Gospel passage continues from where the rich youth rejected our Lord’s counsel to cast away his riches and thus, went away sorrowful. It is in this context that the Apostles began to inquire of THEIR reward for they had ALREADY fulfilled this precept of leaving everything behind.

However, Jesus replies with a general answer. He instructs the Apostles to prefer the Glory of God over the things of this world. Finally, He closes the discourse by telling them the famous verse which all Catholics love: “But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mk 10:31)

From a human perspective, this may seem daunting, illogical and unfair. Even in the depths of my heart, I do ponder why this must be so. How is it fair that the last will become first? (The sin of envy is a very ugly sin.)

The fundamental principle to remember is that God’s ways are DIFFERENT from ours. If we can’t accept this, then we do not understand a thing about True Christianity. The heart of Mark 10:31 is God’s generosity. It’s about the way God deals with us and the way He asks us to deal with each other. The last will be first.

The world’s view is the exact opposite. The world loves winners and has no time for losers. The brightest student gets the scholarship while the weakest goes to work in McDonald’s. The world doesn’t have time for those who are last. Jesus invites us through today’s Gospel to ask ourselves: shall we act in the way the world does?

With God, there are no losers. Remember that He loves us all equally. Whether we choose to accept that love though, will always be our choice alone.


Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Spiritual Envy

In the Gospel on 23 May, the Apostles witnessed other people “driving out demons” and they grew jealous. John asked Jesus to stop them, but Jesus did the exact opposite, saying: anyone who is not against us, they are for us.

Everyone has the right to use the powerful name of Jesus for something good and noble.

Therein lies the beauty of Christianity: Jesus is for everyone, not just for ourselves. It is in sharing Jesus with others that we experience true joy.

Some of us fall prey to spiritual and intellectual pride. Sometimes we say that we are always working for Jesus and that we know Him very well. It is exactly in this that we are not true followers of Christ.

We need to recognize the good in others and not grow jealous. In our world today, there are so many of us who grow jealous when others around us do something good. We get jealous that WE were not the ones who did the good deed, that WE didn’t get the praise and credit.

But the real call to the cross is this. Can we put our selves (ego) down and raise others up, are we (really) happy when others do good things in society? Can we feel true joy that someone out there is contributing to the good in the world?

We need to be generous in attitude — appreciating that someone out there is continuing the mission of Christ.

Prayers today for those struggling with spiritual pride. May you have a generous heart and rejoice in the fact that others in this family of Christ are continuing His Mission!


Originally posted at Catholic Rambles. Image: PD-US

Celebrating Christmas on the Streets

In the Philippines, while the well-to-do families feast on traditional ham, roasted suckling pig, steak, or turkey on Christmas Eve, many other people spend the night begging.

Way back in 2009, my friend Carlos had spiritual direction sessions with a priest famed for his work with the poor.  Carlos documented his own major spiritual experiences in writing and submitted it to the priest, who read it and said, “I am disturbed that despite living in a poor country, the poor scarcely have a place in your spiritual experiences.” Since then, Carlos prayed for a deep love for the poor and the opportunity to share his life with them.

God answered Carlos’ prayer by letting him work for two years in Tondo, Manila—the largest slum area in the Philippines—alongside a missionary.  There, Carlos encountered the worst kind of poverty, and started dreaming of ways to help the destitute celebrate Christmas.

In 2013, Carlos’ dream came true. With the help of his mother and his aunts, he spent the day of December 24 packing sandwiches, candies, chocolates, and juice. On Christmas Eve, his team went around in a van throughout several districts in the southern part of Quezon City seeking out small groups and families of poor people who were hiding in the street corners and expecting not to eat nor receive anything that night. His team gave food to a hundred people, referring to the food not as “tulong” (“help”) but as “handog” (“offering”) or “pamasko” (Christmas gift).

According to Carlos, his team were not the only ones that night doing it. As they drove around the streets, they saw some who had already received food from other passers-by and neighbours.  However, many more still received nothing and expected nothing. Carlos and his team gave food to these people.

“The most heart-warming to see were the smiles of the children,” Carlos says. “Simple “thank yous” also abounded, and these were more than enough. Most memorable for me were the startled eyes of a family that I gently woke up so I could give them some sandwiches.”

Carlos plans to repeat the project this year, and would like to spend more time with the loneliest families listening to their stories. He hopes more friends would join him in this project and that they could give food to more families. Above all, he hopes more people would, on their own, do the same thing next Christmas. However, he does not want that the project be “institutionalized.” “There is a place for institutional charity or mutual assistance, and there is also a place for small, spontaneous movements of kindness and sharing,” he said.

When I asked him for pictures of the project, he said he did not have any. Although he gave me permission to blog about the project, he emphasized that he normally does not speak publicly about his charitable efforts. Yet I believe that my friend’s story, and many other stories like it, deserves to be told—stories of ordinary Christians celebrating the birthday of Christ the way He would have wanted it.

Reflections on Generosity

The past month has been, for me, a month of humbling lessons in generosity as millions worldwide answered calls to help my fellow-Filipinos who survived Typhoon Haiyan.

I learned, for example, that one need not be rich or powerful in order to be generous. Stories abound of such examples as a pre-schooler who donated his piggy bank savings, a beggar-boy who dropped a few coins out of the day’s “earnings” into a donation box, and a taxicab driver who did not charge evacuees who took a ride with him from the airport. These gestures from people whom I thought not to have much to give reminded me of Christ’s appreciation for the poor widow’s contribution, and prompted me to examine my own willingness (or unwillingness) to part with my comforts to help others.

I learned that giving hurts. Often, parting with one’s money is, in itself, the least painful part of giving. I learned this from donors who have had to sacrifice time and effort to investigate solicitor-institutions to ensure they are legitimate ones, or to wait in a long line at a bank that has insufficient and inefficient tellers in order to deposit the donation. Others, giving up sleep, worked at their jobs at night or on weekends so that they could volunteer to serve the evacuees during the day, or volunteered at night shifts at the evacuation centers despite having busy workdays. Small as these sacrifices may be for some, they are sacrifices nonetheless which elicit appreciation and deserve emulation. I realized that while I often want to give, I sometimes want to avoid the inconvenience it entails. But generosity, being a virtue, truly exists when it is practiced despite difficulty.

Finally, I learned that being a gracious receiver is as important as being a cheerful giver – and I consider myself a receiver as well of the aid to the typhoon survivors; they being my brothers and sisters, their sufferings are also my sufferings.

I have sometimes been tempted to judge others by how much they are giving or not giving (e.g., This company is cancelling its Christmas party and donating to the typhoon victims instead, while that other company is not.), or to second-guess others’ motives for giving (e.g. This company is only giving for its corporate image; that person is giving only because he wants the cool fundraising shirt.) But then, I asked myself, will the typhoon survivors themselves, who have been left with nothing, be pleased with such small-mindedness regarding help extended to them? In this situation where the need is dire and every contribution counts, what good will come out of finding fault with others’ ways of being generous? Doubtless, there may be some imperfect acts of generosity, but these should not be of my concern. All that should matter for me is that God appreciates generosity, no matter how imperfectly manifested, and He Himself will purify whatever needs to be purified in the giver’s already noble deed. I know that my own acts of giving can be tainted by pusillanimity and self-serving motives. But God, in His goodness, uses my grudging efforts as occasions to move me to do more.

During this typhoon, for example, I have had to think less of myself and pray for friends whose relatives have been missing. To my own surprise, I found myself praying even for acquaintances whom I am not close to but whom I know to be living in the affected area – and to be happy and grateful upon receiving news that they are safe. I thought I was praying to help others, but in reality, God moved me to pray to teach me to expand my heart.

Indeed, every opportunity to help a brother or sister in need is an opportunity to receive immeasurable blessings in return. I agree with what one priest told participants of an out-of-town volunteer service program before they left: “You are going there not for an outreach, but for an exchange.”