Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School. Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her fourth installment. Click here to see the others.
Hello and welcome to my fourth blog post! I hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. I spent a good amount of time with my family, both those who live in my city and those who have traveled in for the occasion.
For this post, I wanted to explore an aspect of life that is central to the Christian faith and often emphasized throughout the holiday season for all: charitable giving and volunteering. Whether in terms of volunteer work, financial donations made directly to the church, or the donation of one’s time and resources to help another person, charitable giving is a cornerstone of the Christian tradition, as well as in other religions. The amount which it is considered appropriate to tithe is widely debated; a quick Google search of the subject retrieves almost three hundred thousand results, each presumably with their own suggestions. One such suggestion I can recall being tossed around over the years is that each member of the church should donate ten percent of his or her income, but there are many cases when ten percent would be asking far too much, and others in which the same amount seems insignificant. I’ve matured considerably both as a person and as a Christian since I was first introduced to this hypothesis, and sometimes I can’t help but wonder how Jesus might have imagined his teachings as they apply to modern economics.
I have recently had two personal experiences with charitable giving at work: in late November, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Erie City Mission with my youth group, The Vine. According to its website (www.eriecitymission.org), the organization is one of 275 nationally associated “Gospel Rescue Missions;” unlike government entities, rescue missions can attend to local needs without requiring a community-wide consensus to do their work. I had a general idea of the help the City Mission provided in the community—I knew that they hosted community dinners, I was aware that they offered temporary shelter for those in need—but until this visit I woefully underestimated the scope of their programs and the commitment they require. Not including the meals that are provided to program participants, the website states that the organization provides “3 meals [a day], 363 days of the year, to more than 151,000 women, children, and men.” Our group was taken through one of the dormitories for the emergency men’s shelter—it was sparse, but astonishingly clean, thanks to the meticulous laundry and hygiene regiments that are demanded of the individuals who stay there. The shelter can house up to 56 men for a maximum of 60 nights per person; if, 30 days after the original 60 days ended, a former resident is still in need of shelter, he may reapply for an extended stay. I had not known about this policy, and the generosity of it struck me. In addition, the organization has rehabilitation programs that range in length from eight months to one year, with emphasis on spirituality, overcoming addiction, and becoming reconnected to the community. The City Mission has several campuses in and around the city that offer ministries for children and women as well, which are in high demand but shorter supply around the city. Learning about the extent of the City Mission’s efforts made me realize that, in order to better a community, it takes the effort of the entire community.
Because I am off of school and he is home from college, my brother and I were able to volunteer at my church’s food pantry distribution. This distribution happens on one morning every week; it is usually on Friday, but because of the New Year, this past week it was changed to Tuesday. The regular volunteers told us that they had been distributing an average of 90 bags in recent weeks, and they told us that they were predicting an attendance of at least eighty for this week. Before the distribution started, I assisted in dividing fifty pounds of individually wrapped candy bars into bags of ten, and then I was assigned to a table where I was charged with handing out said candy, as well as jars of peanut butter and boxes of raisins. By the time my brother and I left almost two hours later, we had served only forty-five clients. However, just because our efforts directly benefitted fewer people than in the past doesn’t mean that they were wasted; every person whom we served was kind and polite; many of them thanked us and enthusiastically wished the volunteers and other patrons a happy holiday. I saw a connection between this experience and my thoughts on donations described at the beginning of this post—I believe that the number of people you help matters less than your effort to do so. Jesus calls his followers to “go forth in the world” and make a difference in His name, and if we are trying our best to heed his words, then I think that we will find ourselves on a path that He would find acceptable.