Have you hugged your banker today? I didn’t literally hug mine, but I did tell him that I loved him (in so many words).
Many of you know we’re doing a program in our Center. I’ve invited our congregation to give 40 gifts in 40 days. Through this practice, we challenge notions of scarcity and recognize we always have something to give. I’ve asked people to give past their comfort zones; for as we give beyond our comfort level, we reveal ways we limit our experience of Infinite Good.
I discovered after about 20 gifts, I was getting pretty good at releasing objects and money…. I went deeper and asked God how I could stretch in the practice. God summoned me to look at my relationships….
”Uh-oh,” I said.
It’s not that I don’t like people. I fall in love with strangers on a regular basis. It’s introversion. I prefer to remain politely distant: “remain detached, don’t make any sudden moves; don’t engage. Protect yourself with aloofness.”
The forty gifts project inspired me to try something new. “Tell people and other strangers that you appreciate them,” God whispered.
It started with George.
George is a bank vice-president who gave our church a loan last year. Even though we are
fiscally solid, sometimes banks shun churches.
Not George. He was delighted to help us. He gave us a great loan that allowed us to paint our historic building.
I went to see George the other day, to hand deliver a loan payment. While I was in the bank, I noticed some balloons. I asked George, “When’s your birthday?”
“Today,” he said.
“I’ll be right back.”
I power-walked to my car and got some flowers I had stashed there, flowers I bought for myself.
My car was a mere 15-feet from the bank entrance. By the time I arrived to secure the flowers, I had already talked myself out of giving. “Don’t be ridiculous, Bonnie,” I said. “This man doesn’t want your flowers.” Then, “They’re pink. Who gives pink flowers to a guy?” And then, because I’m seventeen at heart, “What if he thinks that you…. you know, LIKE him in a SEXY-KINDA-WAY….???”
You see how we are?
I blessed the inner committee of doubters, grabbed the flowers and charged back into the bank. I handed them to George and said, “George, I want to wish you a happy birthday. You are the nicest banker in the world. Thank you for making our dreams come true.”
George came out from behind his desk.
“If he hugs me I’ll freakin’ start to cry,” I said to myself. Instead, he shook my hand and thanked me.
I scuttled out of the bank, grateful for giving and tickled by the unveiling of strange stories. I pondered these stories all the way home.
Why are we reluctant to express heart-felt appreciation to others?
Sometimes we avoid seeing what’s right with people. We focus instead on what’s wrong with them, in other words, how they might get in the way of our agendas. Preoccupied with our own needs to “get it done,” or “get home,” or what have you, we fail to see the beauty that lurks beneath the surface of everyone, just waiting for our recognition to bring it forth through appreciation.
There’s also the crying. Several of our Center members shared that their reluctance to appreciate stems from the fear of dissolving into a public puddle of snot and tears, in a bank, a grocery store, or other. It just isn’t done. As Hafiz says, “someone might call the cops.” Hafiz was right. When I cry in a show of public-appreciation, it’s a tiny bit embarrassing. Someone inside me calls the propriety police.
There’s the idea that connection may lead to expectation – for example, my semi-mortifying worry that George would imagine the flowers as a sign of my unbridled lust.
Fifty Shades of Geriatric Grey.
In a bank….
So we suppress acts of generosity and loving kindness on a whim, believing that the consequences may be awkward. It could happen – sometimes giving-ness can lead to awkward-ness as both parties sort out expectations and stories. But most often, the perceived dire consequences of giving occur only in our minds… And if giving does indeed lead to an expectation beyond the bounds of what is desired, we can always give another gift – that is the holy gift of “no.”
Then there’s a deeper reason for reluctance, a reason I barely understand, but I know to be truthful….
The day I graduated from nursing school I had a conversation with my father.
He asked, “Do you plan to get close to your patients?”
I said, “I don’t know. Probably it’s safer to stay detached.”
He agreed. “Protect yourself. Don’t get too close or you’ll hurt with every death, every piece of bad news.”
I followed that advice for years, not only in nursing but in life. The world was my hospital and I was a detached nurse. Don’t get too close or you’ll ache inside. Don’t hold on too tightly because you’ll have to let go. Don’t love too deeply because the depth of the loss will be too much to bear.
Today, I’m running past the notion that it’s safer to hold back. Marriage, Ministry and Pets who die too soon have taught me otherwise. I have seen the truth. I have weighed the value of loving completely no matter what the cost.
We don’t lose deeply when we love deeply. The consequence of love is more love. This is a consequence we can count on.
I learned this at George’s bank.
Now you may be asking, “Where is this bank-of-wisdom so I may worship there too?”
I’m sure you realize that the bank is not The Bank. The bank is omnipresence. It’s in every stranger, friend, enemy, relative, animal, vegetable, mineral and ministry. We make deposits through our willingness to give beyond our ability to give; our willingness to examine the stories that fly up when we stretch out; our choice to move beyond old stories and express bold appreciation.
Won’t you join me?
Somewhere out there, there’s a banker, a dog-walker, a clerk in 7-11, a tax preparer, the person who cuts your hair, or the person who cuts you off in traffic. Whoever crosses your path today is there to show you your preconceived limits. Seeing your limits will allow you to choose anew, choose beyond your made-up status quo. Today you can choose to bank on love – and your whole life will expand in sweetness and grace.