What I Learned About Generosity in Romania
Over spring break, I was in Romania working in an orphanage with a group of college students.
We do various service projects and visit many beautiful Orthodox churches. Despite the poverty and scars left over from communism, Romanians are some of the most hospitable and giving people I know. When we visited a monastery up in the mountains, we were served a three-course meal.
Another time, when we were at a shop, I was eyeing a jar of honey, but we had not exchanged our American dollars to Romanian lei yet, so when I was leaving without the honey, the shop owner stopped me and handed me the jar of honey and said very simply, “Gift for you.”
My heart, needless to say, melted. How can this man give so freely? How can I be more generous like these people who seem to have so little?
On thing that might make this possible is that they truly own what they give because they have grown it or made it with their own hands. Every home, no matter how dilapidated or unfinished, had some form of fruit trees in their small yards. The orphanage had their own livestock and garden. Many homes and churches we passed had apiaries.
It struck me that the potatoes we ate at every meal might have been grown in the orphanage garden and the honey that was gifted to me might have been harvested by the same hands that did the giving.
When we buy something, we have sense of ownership and entitlement over it. I worked hard for this money to buy what I want and now this item is mine. If I break it or throw it away, it does not matter because it is mine.
This is an impersonal interaction; there is no thought of where it came from, the person who produced it and so on. In fact, the bought item has some sort of power or ownership over me that prevents me from freely giving it away and often leaves a greedy feeling in my heart.
When we harvest fruit or pull a radish out of the ground, the radish does not own me. I truly own the radish, and in this true ownership I can give it away more easily. Not only does growing the radish enable me to be more generous, it also allows me to be less dependent on money that I would normally use to buy a radish. Now the power of consumerism has loosened its grip on me a little bit.
I see this in our children at school, when we grow kale their eyes light up and I hear whispers of, “My grandma loves kale.” When a child picks okra, I hear, “My mom can make a meal for our family with this!” Each time their thoughts are for others, a small pearl is added to the selfless jar in their souls and over time the jar will fill up and we will have many saints wandering around our school decorating it with pumpkins and giving away treasures of tomatoes and flowers.
Glory to God!
The Garden by Nicholas Grimald
THE issue of great Jove, draw near you, Muses nine:
Help us to praise the blissful plot of garden ground so fine.
The garden gives good food, and aid for leech’s* cure; *doctor
The garden, full of great delight, his master doth allure.
Sweet sallet* herbs be here, and herbs of every kind; *salad
The ruddy grapes, the seemly fruits be here at hand to find.
Here pleasance wanteth not, to make a man full fain
Here marvelous the mixture is of solace, and of gain.
To water sundry seeds, the furrow by the way
A running river, trilling down with liquor, can convey.
Behold, with lively hue, fair flowers that shine so bright:
With riches, like the orient gems, they paint the mould* in sight. *soil
Bees, humming with soft sound, (their murmur is so small),
Of blooms and blossoms suck the tops, on dewed leaves they fall
The creeping vine holds down her own bewedded elms:
And, wandering out with branches thick, reeds folded overwhelms.
Trees spread their coverts wide, with shadows fresh and gay:
Full well their branched boughs defend the fervent sun away.
Birds chatter, and some chirp, and some sweet tunes do yield:
All mirthful, with their songs so blithe, they make both air and field.
The garden it allures, it feeds, it glads the sprite*; *spirit
From heavy hearts all doleful dumps the garden chaseth quite.
Strength it restores to limbs, draws, and fulfills the sight:
with cheer revives the senses all, and maketh labour light.
O, what delights to us the garden ground doth bring?
Seed, leaf, flower, fruit, herb, bee, and tree & more than I may sing.