Today I am going to share a story from Katherine Hepburn, the famous U.S actress from the 1930's. This is her story:
Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus.
Finally, there was only one other family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me.
There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. The way they were dressed, you could tell they didn't have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean.
The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. By their excitement you could sense they had never been to the circus before. It would be a highlight of their lives.
The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband's hand, looking up at him as if to say, "You're my knight in shining armor." He was smiling and enjoying seeing his family happy.
The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted? He proudly responded, "I'd like to buy eight children's tickets and two adult tickets, so I can take my family to the circus." The ticket lady stated the price.
The man's wife let go of his hand, her head dropped, the man's lip began to quiver. Then he leaned a little closer and asked, "How much did you say?" The ticket lady again stated the price.
The man didn't have enough money. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn't have enough money to take them to the circus?
Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket."
The man understood what was going on. He wasn't begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation.
He looked straight into my dad's eyes, took my dad's hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied; "Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family."
My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 that my dad gave away is what we were going to buy our own tickets with.
Although we didn't get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide.
"That day I learnt the value to Give."
"The Giver is bigger than the Receiver."
"If you want to be large; larger than life, learn to Give."
In a way, our life seems like that of the father and mother who walk up to the circus without knowing how much it would cost but thinking they could afford it, and then realizing that they do not have the means to pay for them and their children to enjoy the circus. Think about the embarrassing spectacle of having to communicate to their children that they have to return back home without going to the circus because they didn’t have the means.
But amid the shock of the parents, and often our own shock when we are faced with difficult challenges, the psalmist reminds us that God shows up when we least expect. God works in mysterious ways His purpose to fulfill. God brings a new smile on our faces-which is always an exhilarating experience which we cannot put into words. For the reason that God shows up when we least expect, I have come to believe that when we look up, when the psalmist wonders:
"I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help."
The assurance from the psalmist is always comforting:
"My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy feet to be moved. He that keepeth thee will not slumber. The Lord is thy keeper. The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand."
Even in our moments of utter humiliation, in times when we're lost, we can still feel a tap on our shoulder - someone, a stranger, perhaps YOU - who has been gifted with much by God, has that unique honor, even against your own personal interest, to turn another’s humiliation into a deep sense of bewilderment and gratitude. For reasons of your goodness and more, we can yet again believe in one another, and in human goodness, in its purest form.
It is with this spirit - the one which reminds us that the reward of goodness is nothing but goodness itself - that we begin our conversation about our Stewardship Campaign for the year 2021. Over the next several days, you will receive mail from our Stewardship Committee which will invite you to pledge in support of our common life. You may also make your pledge online by completing the form on this page.
The circus can, no doubt, be an incredibly fun place. Katherine didn’t get the chance to enjoy the circus that day because her father decided to express love in a way that had nothing to do with what you expect to get, but had everything to do with what you expect to give.
Christ Church’s hope is that, like Katherine’s father, you will tap on her shoulder and assure her of your support for her life and ministry to her many children.
For as fun as the circus may be, there's no joy greater than knowing that in giving, our hearts become as big as the ocean, all in tune with the Almighty God.