Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An investment in the future

This week @ CBC, we're talking about Generosity. What that means and people who we known who are generous. It brought to mind one of the most generous men I've ever had the privilege to know.
When I graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 1990, I received a scholarship to attend Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth. (Truth be told, I was third in line to receive it. The only reason it came to me was the other two turned it down to pursue other options). The scholarship was awesome and a blessing beyond measure, but it only covered tuition. I still had to live, eat, buy my books and gas to get back and forth. Knowing my penchant for eating (a frequent habit of mine!), I found work through a friend at Sears, right down the street from Southwestern Seminary. Although the store has since closed due to a declining clientele and neighborhood, I learned much about generosity and investment in the future in my 5 years there. Most significantly, I learned how to be generous even when that's tough. I learned it through Mr. Greg Johnson. Technically, Greg was my boss. He never acted that way, however, and he most certainly never treated me that way. A lifer with Sears, he'd worked for more than 20 years in the Sears organization at a variety of stores and a variety of jobs. He'd seen it all! His experience was priceless! I learned much about taking care of people in the RIGHT way and treating people with kindness regardless as to circumstances. What I learned most, however, was generosity.
About three weeks after I started with Sears, I had my schedule set. I'd leave home around 7:15 AM, attend class until around 2 PM then work at the store till around 9:15 PM. While I could carry lunch and supper with me (and I did), I frequently didn't take enough to really get me along - thus I weighed the feather-weight poundage that I did when Julie married me! One night, Greg and I took an evening break together. Nothing unusual. He asked me to accompany him to the Mall Food Court. There were only a small handful of fast-food joints down there and I had no money, but I agreed to go and keep him company. Once down there, Greg bought what seemed like an enormous meal at Taco Bell. Unbeknownst to me, he was planning to eat only half. The other half he gave to me. After I resisted (my mom did teach me some manners), it became clear this was his plan all along. Blessed by the meal (but even more by the kindness), we went back to work.
The next night, he asked me to go again. I declined (out of sheer pride). I was no pauper. I wasn't a charity case. While not "rolling in it" I wasn't that broke - was I? The next night - the same thing. The next night, again. This went on for a week or more when one day Greg caught me after I had refused and told me this: "I can't do the things you can do, Darin. I can't preach, teach or learn like you can. But I can help you get a decent meal every now and then! I can help encourage you toward being the man I think I see in you." Shocked and a little overwhelmed, I didn't turn him down again. It wasn't every night, but it was more often than not. And there were times when he would show up with something he'd bought somewhere else. Many times he gave me the cash and told me to go get it. It never was much in the way of monetary value - maybe $3 at the most. But to a poor seminary student working part-time at Sears, that $3 might as well have been $3 million. It meant so very much to me not because I needed the money but because I learned a strong lesson in being generous. Now, nearly 20 years since I left that job, I can still remember the generosity showed by one who chose to show it - and in doing so, teaching a young preacher something only a series of Taco Bell suppers can teach. Generosity means giving of yourself first.

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