I’m baking brownies today. One hundred twenty-five. Each one will go into a small plastic bag and be put in the freezer.
Next week, there will be an assembly line in my kitchen as friends slap peanut butter and jelly on bread, drop small containers of applesauce, along with juice boxes, the brownies, spoons and napkins, into paper bags.
We’re making bag lunches for a Vacation Bible School that meets in a gritty neighborhood on the near Eastside of Indianapolis. We don’t pack veggies – the kids won’t eat them. Ours is to supply, not reform.
The first time we did this, it was for 80, then 90, then 100 and now 125.
Sounds wonderful of me, doesn’t it? The fact is, this is an easy way to give. Funding 125 bag lunches comes with a cost, but it’s only money.
This sort of giving doesn’t cost me at a gut level. It’s not the kind of giving that sits beside someone, listens to them, loves them, cradles them, challenges them, calls them to a new way of living. Seriously, have you ever heard someone say, “A brownie changed my life”? The bag lunches meet a momentary need, but they don’t address the deep need.
Our friends who pastor the church hosting the Vacation Bible School address people’s needs on a far larger scale. They’re engaged in costly giving – they give of themselves. They believe to minister to the poor, you have to become poor. So they did.
And so they are.
Those who give much, reap much. They see the dividends that come with sacrificial investments – new life, more families doing foster care, addicts no longer addicted and a few more kids who now have a future. But the needs never end. One need is met, and two more arise. And then there’s the drumbeat of poverty constantly in the background. Cars stolen, gunfire, awakening to find a SWAT team on the front porch at 3 a.m.
But by far the biggest cost of sacrificial giving is having their hearts broken. Repeatedly. It’s watching the smallest ones slip through the cracks and knowing all too well what’s ahead for them.
Yet along with the neighborhood Vacation Bible School, the leadership circle is growing, too – there are more solid church members helping shepherd the flock, and a few more transplants have moved in from the outer ring of the city to be of service.
They graduated another class of high school kids this year and have established an amazing health clinic. It’s all volunteer. People do what programs never can.
Of course, every gift counts. The parts come together to make the whole. But I am acutely and humbly aware with each brownie I pack that there is a rich and costly giving that changes lives, and then there are the crumbs.
Hopefully, the crumbs will bless, too. One hundred twenty-three, 124, 125.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.