Discover more from Things I Wrote Down
Coldplay, a homeless man and a missionary walk into a bar...
3 snapshots on why to give much away, expect nothing in return.
We were driving the other day, as a family to Costco. With young children this requires a certain amount of planning, negotiation and courage.
We had an empty pantry and fridge after a busy week and the only time that worked to go was at the supper hour.
We planned to eat a quick bite at the in-store cafeteria before the big shop.
At a traffic light, we were in the long turning lane, and a street-involved man with a cardboard sign was asking for help. Pocket change. Anything we could give. We quickly searched our cupholders for loose change. All we could scrounge up was the two snacks we brought as back up if the kids were hungry: an almond-infused granola bar and a pack of trail mix.
After we handed the humble but given-with-love-and-blessing offering to the man in need, we hit the turning light and made our way to Costco. And we hoped he didn’t have a nut allergy.
I just returned from a weekend away. I saw Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour in Vancouver. It was uh-mazing.
To see 50,000 people crowded in a stadium become part of the light show (with plant-based electric wrist bands, nonetheless) as they sing every lyric to every song, was inspiring.
It’s the third time I’ve seen the band (Seattle, Edmonton and now Vancouver) and each time I left amazed at the way the music moved the crowd, how frontman Chris Martin throws down everything he’s got onto the stage and into the microphone to deliver the best time of the audience’s life.
I permit you to read this with as much cynicism or delight as you can muster, because I know I paid to fly, paid for tickets, paid to get to and from the stadium (and witnessed people drop too-much cash for too-ugly merch): there is something so selfless and generous about the band’s offering.
The feel-good sing-along tapped into something beautiful about humanity. And Martin leads the way, inviting people to sing off-tune, at the top of their lungs.
It’s rare on earth, especially today, to experience moments when masses of people gather and share moments of unity and joy.
My stage isn’t as big as Coldplay’s but I also aim to bring some joy as I share my weekly newsletter. Try going paid! It’s less than the cost of an Uber from a concert venue to the airport!
Somehow the nut-allergy triggering handout to the homeless man and Coldplay’s unreserved melodic outpouring reminded me of something I read about a missionary couple from early 1900s. I stumbled upon them when I was researching a story for the stage.
Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth worked in China for many years, lived through the Boxer rebellion, terrible famine and great personal loss.
As I read through the archives about their lives (on microfilm) I discovered a list of seven principles that the Goforths lived by. One stood out in particular:
Give much away, expecting nothing in return.
It’s a provocative statement, for we like to hoard, even save. And if we save we do it to spend, often on ourselves. Or, when the moment comes, we withhold what we’d willingly give because it doesn’t seem enough.
The almond bar and the trail mix weren’t enough. But they were what we had in our hands.
A stadium concert isn’t enough to unite or heal the world, but artists, giving their all as an offering to others can transform the downtown of one of the world’s greatest cities, even for one night.
I’ve had the fortune of living with communities of people who practice this principle in small and large ways. There’s a certain power unlike any other released when people give not only out of their abundance but also in their need. When people give sacrificially. When we give with joy, attaching no strings to our gifts, from willing hearts.
Coldplay, a homeless man and a gone-to-glory missionary walked into my life this week and, no joke, reminded me of that mysterious exuberance.