If there is one form of fundraising that I find more bothersome than others, it would have to be when people stand in busy traffic intersections with collection buckets asking for donations. What used to be a once or twice a year occurrence for fire fighters to collection money in their boots for Jerry’s Kids has become a nearly every weekend ordeal for practically any group (from local youth groups and churches to unheard of charities) to raise money from unsuspecting motorists.
I am not against giving. In fact, I actively give to several organizations on a monthly basis, as well as look forward to giving my kids change to throw into Salvation Army kettles every Christmas season and participating in other regular times of giving for charities that I enjoy supporting. But unlike charity collections outside of stores where I can speed up my pace and walk quickly away, at intersections I am trapped until the light turns green and the car in front of me begins to move forward … stuck in my vehicle, with no method of escape possible. And, for someone like me who doesn’t like direct confrontation, the idea that I can’t politely say, “No thanks” and keep moving on is quite troublesome.
Furthermore, even if I do want to support the charity, quite often I am truly quite broke. I am unable to even give as much as a dime. It’s not because I am truly that poor. Rather, it’s because I just don’t ever carry a lot of cash with me as I am totally spoiled by my debit card. Besides, most of the cash and change I do have on hand is quickly snatched up by my children for canteen money at school or to put in the offering plate on Friday morning’s chapel service.
There I sit in my minivan with no money to give … and so begins the frantic game known as “trying not to make eye contact.”
As desperately as I am focused on trying to look straight ahead, the person with the bucket is focused on trying to get me to look their way. Of course, in all likelihood this person already knows that, despite my unswerving eyes, I see her. She knows because she can hear the three children in the back of the minivan yelling, “Hey, mom! That lady wants you to give her some money! She’s collecting for homeless orphan children in South America so that they can have Christmas presents this year. You are going to give her something, aren’t you?!”
It never fails that all the other drivers are shoving their hands through their windows, dropping bills and coins into the buckets. I begin to realize that once again I am the lone driver with the stingy, uncaring heart. Guilt creeps in and suddenly I feel like the most ungiving person to ever walk the face of the earth. It doesn’t matter that each of my children will fill a shoebox with gifts to send overseas through Operation Christmas Child, or that we support two little boys through Compassion International every month. I still feel as if I am neglecting to share my blessings with others. It’s as if the evidence of my Christian faith hangs on this one thread of whether or not I have given to this one group of people collecting money at this one intersection on this particular day.
So, much to my dismay, this past Saturday I spotted what seemed to be a relatively major charity collection on my way to Wal-Mart. It was too late for me to change directions when I saw a horde of people in orange t-shirts and hats, standing in the road. Tents were set up on either side of the roadway, with stacks of ice chests placed all around. I could tell that these folks were planning on staying quite a while. Big banners proclaimed that this was the work of a local church.
I also noticed that this group was rather bold. They were actually flagging down cars and leaning into open windows. Fairly quickly I realized that these people they were handing out bottles of water to each vehicle that stopped. I huffed inwardly, seething at the very idea of this local congregation “selling” bottles of water for a donation to their church.
I tried to steel myself against letting my window down. I was determined to look straight ahead. My kids begin to clamor for me to give the man some money. As I used my review mirror to look back at my three kids and explain why I wasn’t going to give the nice man any of my money, I heard a knock on my car window.
Why, the audacity of that man! I was fuming now … but I rolled down my window and prepared myself to say a very firm, “No, thank you.”
He leaned in and said, “It’s a hot day, isn’t it? We’ve got some water here. Can we give you some? There’s no strings attached … just some free water on a hot day.”
Julia, who was sitting closest to the window, said quickly, “Oh, thank you! I am so thirsty!” From the back seat I heard one of my boys say, “There are four of us and we all like to drink water!”
The man laughed and said, “Hey … I need four bottles of water!” Very quickly another man ran over with four nice cold bottles of water and passed them through the window.
The first man said, “We just want you to know that just as cold water refreshes us on a hot day, the Living Water of God will refresh our souls. God loves you! Have a great weekend!”
And with that, before I could even mutter my thanks, they had moved on to the car behind me.
As I slowly drove away, it felt as if burning coals were being heaped upon my head. I heard words echoing in my soul:
Judge not, and you will not be judged … Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37.
Do not judge by appearances … John 7:24.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things … Romans 2:1-3.
But who are you to judge your neighbor? … James 4:12
Meanwhile, my kids were happily sucking down their bottled water. Joel announced, “Mmmmm! That’s some great water! Probably because it’s Christian water… right, Mom?!”
Somehow, I could not help but think that Joel was partly right. Oh, I know there wasn’t anything special about the bottles of water given to us on that hot August afternoon. But they were given with the right spirit … a spirit of love.
Soon some new words sang out in my heart, reminding me of truths I know but so often forget to put into practice …
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them …Luke 6:31.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” …Galatians 5:14.
These people had volunteered to stand out in a busy intersection on a sultry summer day for no other reason than to remind others in a very tangible way that God is love. No preaching involved. No requests to come to services at their church. No expectations for monetary donations. Nothing but sincerely showing God’s love to others … with no strings attached.
I think that perhaps what I need most of all is a little more of that Living Water living inside of me.