Goodness not Guilt: “…if I had [time], I would give.”
All around it seems there are needs that beg to be acknowledged with at least a loving outreach. During stretches where my own time is scarce, I am often left to stand by and watch a friend move with feeble knees, or see a sister inch forward under the weight of a suffocating burden. My inclination is to reach out and respond to these sometimes silent petitions and it is natural for me to preface these thoughts with “I should call ……” or “I need to…….” Inevitably, as days wear on and my missed opportunity tally increases, I begin to feel the guilty weight of charity. I don’t actually believe that it was ever intended to be this way but I am woefully familiar with the underbelly of this magnificent beast. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to change my phrasing to “I want to…” thus giving myself credit for the myriad good deeds that happen only in my mind :). Instead of carrying around burdening guilt for an idea I never acted on, I try to remind myself of 1 thing:
My willingness and desire count for something. Something substantial, and a generous spirit (even without actions to back it up) is acceptable to heaven. King Benjamin, an exemplary leader in the Book of Mormon, was speaking to his people about the management of their resources. In this particular verse, money was the object of his example. He asked the people to maintain their generosity regardless of their ability to act on it. “I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” I believe this idea applies to all of our resources, including time. And expressing the thought this way feels like an acknowledgement, almost a prayer, of a desire to help.
The surprisingly beautiful thing is that in seemingly impossible situations, sometimes a way opens up and I am actually able to offer some small token of love or regard. It may be different than the action I’d thought up but these seemingly miraculous opportunities seem like a little window to heaven, opened just for me and another. They fill me with hope. Hope that even a “desire” to lend myself to a situation or another soul can trigger enlightenment and enabling power. Hope that my efforts, sometimes sluggish and sometimes spot on, are acceptable and appreciated. Hope in occasionally finding that what heaven wants and what I want are the very same thing. Hope that the Savior’s methods can be learned and understood. And hope that maybe the fleeting times when I feel tethered to Deity for those few short moments or hours are, as my friend Anne Marie points out, a beautifully realistic goal for this mortal life.