Mikestrathdee’s Blog


Berries, Cold Gravy and generosity
January 1, 2009, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Generosity | Tags:

Berries, cold gravy and generosity
God, money and me
From the Feb. 5, 2007 issue of Canadian Mennonite magazine

—Mike Strathdee

The power of example is a much more potent influence than is generally understood. Several incidents involving the Strathdee children have reinforced that principle for me.

We had a bumper crop of raspberries last year, the most abundant crop during the 15 years that Carolyn and I have had a house and a patch to pick.

Ella, our daughter, is keen to help with outside work, but less excited about the scratches or the mosquito bites that accompany berry picking expeditions. When the bite count went past her tolerance level, and when she realized that the job was not nearly done, she apologetically headed for the house, taking along what we had harvested together. Some time later, she returned to the edge of the patch, carrying the same berries in a series of plastic containers, and explaining which neighbours she had chosen to bless with the first fruits of these seasonal treats.

Humph! I muttered under my breath. Couldn’t she wait until the picking was done, so we could see the bountiful yield all in one place? And where did she come up with the crazy idea of giving away everything, anyway? Further reflection provided the answer. Until a few years ago, when the combination of regular varmint raids and the demands of a high needs younger child led us to abandon vegetable gardening efforts, we routinely passed on tomatoes, beans and zucchini to neighbours. Ella saw enough veggie sharing that the idea stuck with her, even after our practice had lapsed.

That’s a much happier influence than another scene witnessed recently. Both of our daughter Kate’s therapists, young women in their mid-20s, are fond of colourful, flashy clothes purchased from a retail chain that rhymes with “cold gravy.” For months, every time we drove past a certain plaza, Kate would ask when we could go shopping there.

When their grandfather gave Kate and Ella birthday money, clothes shopping at a certain store quickly became the consensus on how the cash should be spent. They made good choices in their purchases. But their excitement around the experience of buying sparkly logos—and their persistent questions about when the next trip will be—left their parents somewhat ill at ease.

Thankfully, the social epidemics that such emotions can spawn isn’t restricted to the consumer realm. A few years ago, Sam, a young boy who lives a few houses away, decided that for his birthday party, instead of bringing gifts, guests should make a donation to a local men’s hostel. When Ella heard about that, she decided that for her party, kids should bring materials for MCC school kits. Her friend Beth, for a party a couple months later, asked for donations to help an environmental charity save the tigers.

How can we, as parents, grandparents, mentors or friends in the church community, help to channel excitement and the enthusiasm of the next generation in the life-affirming direction of good deeds, as a counterbalance to the deadening consumerism that is all around us?

It’s an important question, and certainly worth a few boxes of berries.

Mike Strathde, CFP is a stewardship consultant at the Kitchener, Ont., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education, estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit mennofoundation.ca.

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