Last week I was asked to speak about why I give to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to which I belong. All the passion and confusion and distress and joy the preparations brought up, all the intense feelings surprised me. The experience made me feel that the speech I delivered might be useful to others of a like spirit trying to justify the drive to support Grace where we see it. Here is the transcript of my part in Rev. Paula Maiorano’s wonderful exploration of Giving as a Spiritual Path.
“Good morning! My name is Rebecca Laughing Butterfly.
I don’t like to speak before crowds, but my love for this place … and you people … is more important than my comfort.
I was raised by two traditions to honor the sacred by giving with an open heart to nourish it. Living to quietly serve the deep human need of spiritual experience. Our success is measured by what we give and how we give it, not by what we have managed to stockpile.
- My Society Faith taught Tithing: giving 10% of our income (or more) for the support of the church and its good works.
- My Natural Faith taught The Give-Away: giving our most prized possessions and the juiciest fruits of our labors for the support of our sacred spaces, ceremony and our community.
- Both taught Service and Sacrifice: becoming a servant-leader –
- making sure others are fed before we eat,
- clothed before we dress,
- are comfortable before we rest …
- especially the wise, and the vulnerable.
Sacred space is a Public Treasure, Spiritual Guidance, a Private Gift.
Give until it is uncomfortable.
- Give until we are free of temptation, and what we own no longer owns us …
- Give until the Gift truly represents the Sacred Joy of our Commitment.
Giving became Poetry … and Romance … and Honor.
> But what does that mean? How do we do it? When we are already uncomfortable, when the only things in our pockets … or purses … or wallets, are … lint and cookie crumbs, or I.O.Us for other debts … how? I didn’t think lint on the collection plate – or give-away blanket – would be appreciated … or fair.
After all the Priest, the Leaders and the Healers need to Live. They need food, clothing, comfort, tools, clean water … as do the Poor … as do I. To get out to see people in need or celebration, they need transportation. There are taxes to pay for the Land and buildings, maintenance, cleaning, heat, cooling, electricity, food, music, water.
How could I pay for my share in all of that? What good is a tithe when we have no income? 10% of nothing is still nothing.
At first, all I could do is show up and do what was needed: sing in the choir, drum in ceremony, make sacred spaces clean and beautiful, fill in as Altar Server when the priest said mass in nursing homes, tend fire for sweat lodge, dance natural stories, tutor kids after school, play with kids while their parents do ceremony, shop for those who can’t, cook, clean, read and write letters, share stories, hold hands give smiles and hugs chop wood, carry water, tie prayers, Fast dance my sacrifice (which I discovered means: “to make sacred”) … Be still. Bring peace.
I would think of all I was getting and want to do more: safety, fulfillment, the comfort of faith and community, hours of counseling, confession & absolution, wisdom, physical healing, apprenticeship, insight, practical experience, Visions, inspiration, Clarity, stability, respect … REVERENCE. The Vibration of Peace at the core of my very cells.
Of course we want to do more. There’s Poetry in Mission. …But, we have to be practical, infuse Poetry into day-to-day Reality …. We have to take care of the essentials first > air, water, food, rest, shelter, clothing, education, tools of our trades… Books, Music & chocolate, movies & concerts, eating out and pretty things … feel like essentials, but – I had to admit – are luxuries in some forms.
So, I decided to take what I spend on extras, add 25%, and give that. After a while, I was able to double it. Sometimes I’ve actually been able to Tithe, but not often, really, although I still fantasize about it all the time.
Here’s what I do:
> First, I try to give enough to cover what I get from spiritual experiences, or at least my share of the practical expenses of protecting sacred space, nurturing community and supporting ceremonial leaders who make them possible.
> Then, I add what I can for what the community needs and what I’d like to see supported: social justice, religious education, sanctuary, code purple for the homeless, socializing, kids’ projects and trips, community dreams.
> Finally, I give a little extra for those who struggle to survive and have no money – or Energy – to spare. We want to take good care of our own, and EVERY life is sacred. I breathe prayers into the collection baskets when I can’t put money in.
> When I need it myself, I try to ask for help, try to remember that accepting help can give others the Gift of Fulfillment.
Sacred Space is only here for us if We actively preserve it. Spiritual Guidance, moral, financial and emotional support are only here for us if We actively nurture our Leaders, Guides, Teachers, Healers, Caregivers and all the members of our Community.
Thank you for consistently giving enough to inspire this shy person to speak in public.”
Why do you give?
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.