I pulled in the driveway and eyed something on the steps.
A bag. A large, heavy grocery bag.
Curiosity piqued, I hauled it inside the house and peered inside.
Goodies and groceries, soup cans and staples.
I opened up the enclosed envelope and a gift card to our local grocer floated to the table. I searched to see who sent this generous gift, but the card had no signature.
A bag of blessings freely given with no expectation of anything in return.
Tears rolled down my face as a steady stream of emotions washed over me. From despair and embarrassment to pure unadulterated relief and gratitude, I knew that during our time of great need, the Lord met us through someone tangibly living out, “It is better to give than to receive.”
That first period of unemployment took place more than ten years ago, and that gift of anonymity cemented a critical, spiritual life lesson in my memory.
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Isaiah 44:3
That bag of groceries was not about the gift card. It symbolized hope.
Someone offered my family a sip of water during our drought, a Holy Spirit offering poured forth through pastries and produce.
That blessing also modeled for me an additional element of importance.
A heart of generosity occurs in varying forms, but all forms of giving aren’t necessarily equal.
After that unexpected gift, I began rethinking just how often I gave of my time, talents or resources expecting something in return. It’s hard to admit, but I didn’t even realize that craving because it crept in subtly, masked by “doing good.”
Were affirmation, appreciation, attention, all possible reactions from my gifts, an underlying motive? I didn’t like that heart possibility.
As I began seeking out tangible ways to bless others, I realized it wasn’t always possible to give anonymously, nor was that necessary, but sharing gifts, whether of time, encouragement or resources, in an anonymous manner became part of my biblical sanctification process.
I wanted to renew my mind on the act of giving, on generosity of heart with a “just because” mentality. In order to do that, it was necessary for me to temporarily remove the possibility of reciprocal appreciation.
I desired to share the joy of giving that was once modeled for us, and while there were so many ways to implement this like sending a note or buying coffee for the person behind me in the drive through, we first decided on a simple “Blessing Basket.”
For years, we drove past a house near our church and watched as an older gentleman meticulously manicured his lawn through sweltering NC summers. We nicknamed him the “Nice Lawn Guy” and spoke of him often.
He fertilized. He weeded. He poured life into that yard and it showed. He tended beauty.
Since our lawn is in a constant state of chaos, I’ve used his exemplary work ethic as a weekly life lesson. For years, Mr. Nice Lawn Guy taught our children many lessons on perseverance, dedication and a stick-to-it attitude.
Although we watched him from afar, he didn’t know how much his small actions ministered to us. Actions that he did on a daily basis without any realization that they mattered to someone else.
He was completely unaware.
So we decided to put our appreciation into action and implement this “Blessings” basket tradition.
The purpose was to demonstrate gratitude, appreciation and/or compassion for someone in an anonymous way with out expecting anything in return. That’s really hard for children, and as I’ve admitted, adults too, but a purposeful way to help build character in our kids.
Even though this first occurred years ago, the memory of giving to the “Good Lawn” guy still warms my heart.
I began by printing off this simple template and using some pretty construction paper to form the basket. I wrote a small note explaining his nickname and I shared a few examples of the life lessons he had demonstrated to our children by his hard work ethic.
Our kids put little notes in the basket thanking him for his beautiful lawn and flowers. They each found small gifts to share – candy, a garden candle and our youngest daughter added her prized dolly paraphernalia, from which I am sure he got a chuckle.
We scoped out his house, assumed no one was home, and left the basket hanging on his door. (Think five, young, 007s in action.) As we jumped back in the van, he ran out of the house.
This was not supposed to happen, but the joy that this man showered on my children will be a memory forever etched into our framework.
You would have thought he had won the lottery, and it demonstrated to our children that one of our family mottos, “It’s the Little Things that are the Big Things,” rings true. For more than twenty minutes, we shared life with this stranger, this Good Lawn Guy and after we left, our kids couldn’t stop talking about how much their choice to give ministered to him.
We’ve had opportunities to do similar things since then, such as sharing food baskets with refugees or making care packages for the homeless, but it all started with that grocery bag of blessings on our doorstep.
It’s been a few years since we’ve actually put together simple Blessings Baskets, and our family is going to take time this spring season to share in a tangible way.
Won’t you join us?
Remember, it may be as simple as creating something frugal like my blessings baskets from here, filling it with goodies, and leaving them for others without identifying yourself.
True generosity: giving without expecting anything in return.
Have fun getting creative. I have some more crafty ideas for these blessings baskets over at my site, along with the template. Hang one on a doorknob, leave it on a desk, or place it on a car seat.
I can’t wait to hear about your experiences. Will you share in the comments?
Family Legacy Leaver, Jen Schmidt, shares her journey over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.