I recently received a newsletter from the St Paul Area Council of Churches... with a great article about Generosity! I thought I'd share some pieces of it with you:
"I have always been impressed and moved by the generosity of American Indians...
"When my friend Steve Charleston was elected Bishop of Alaska, Minnesota Episcopalians had a celebration at our diocesan convention. In thanks, Steve gave a gift to everyone who was there.
"Across from the receptionist's desk at the St. Paul Area Council of Churches is a beautiful print by Sam English entitled, 'The Give Away.' It depicts American Indians sharing what they have with an unseen other.
"I come from the Pacific Northwest where there is a strong potlatch tradition among the indigenous tribes. They would use the potlatch celebration as a way to offer thanks for their bounty and to share what they had with other tribes.
"Generosity is a profound American Indian virtue across the United States and Canada: you share what you have with those who have not so much, knowing the day may come when you may have little. Generosity spreads the wealth, helps to overcome poverty, builds trust, and creates friendship.
"I recently attended the First Peoples Fund Community Spirit Awards. These awards honor American Indian artists for their art, but not as individuals. Instead they are honored for how they have shared their gifts with the community and enriched the life of their community. That's why they are called "community spirit" awards. As I sat in the audience watching and listening to the work of these artists, I thought about the differences between a community-based society and an individualistic and materialistic society.
"...Are we really richer if a few have way more than enough and too many have nowhere near enough? Are we really richer if every individual has to get his or her own, instead of sharing with one another? Am I really more important than my community? Did I really get to where I am today all on my own?
"...Though the secular culture tends to reinforce getting over giving, the material over the spiritual, and the individuals over the community, there remains a strong community spirit in Minnesota. We need to continue to nurture that community spirit. It is the better spirit of America... It was the spirit that helped my ancestors survive in Eastern Oregon. It is the spirit that will keep Minnesota strong. It is the spirit that can bring us together across barriers that divide us. We are our brother's and sister's keeper. We need one another, if we really want to prosper as a community.
"Generosity goes beyond being liberal in sharing of material resources, there is also a spiritual generosity captured in this definition: 'freedom from pettiness in mind and character; noble-minded; magnanimous; unprejudiced.' Generosity is about character. It is a way of being together. It is about people who believe, as Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, 'We are all better off when we are all better off.' This is not about suppressing the individual. Quite the contrary. It is about nurturing every person to become as successful as possible and, at the same time, nurturing in every person a desire to share her or his gifts and prosperity with others."
--A Note form Grant, St. Paul Area Council of Churches
(When we were at Rosebud Reservation last summer, I had a delightful conversation with a Native American woman about celebrating her new great-grandson with a potlatch ceremony! So cool to know that this little lady (who didn't have much) was ready to celebrate this new life by giving to others! What a great tradition...)
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