I made a grown man cry.
No, I didn’t stand on his toes. Nor did I fold up a map the wrong way in front of him or bump his car with mine. All I did was tell him a story. Perhaps I should explain.
I was recently at a gathering called New Wine in the United Kingdom for people of faith—particularly Christian faith—designed to enable them to get a spiritual “recharge.”
For two weeks, thousands of intrepid campers and caravanners gathered to meet with God and his people and see where that would take them.
In the marketplace where I was working, there are many charities all telling stories of despair, hope, transformation, challenges and injustice.
Each one had its supporters; each one was hoping to touch people’s hearts with what’s being done in the name of God.
It was intriguing to watch how different people came into the marketplace. Many were more than happy to exchange pleasant greetings, small talk and banter, while others kept their heads down and refused to catch your eye.
Christians have an uncomfortable relationship with money—particularly when asking for money from others.
It’s the “dirty” side of charity work; explain you’re a fundraiser, and people eye you with the same suspicion they eye the tax collector. Or the Bond villain.
We were hoping that Us, the charity I work for, would gain new supporters, and that more people would sign up to donate to us. But it’s more than that.
One of the reasons this annual gathering is so successful is that people who come to it have a real heart for understanding God’s calling.
That might mean the spiritual equivalent of a kick into the middle of next week, or it might mean some sacrificial giving or quitting a job to go and work overseas. Who knows?
The trouble is that we often put up barriers to listening to what’s going on around us.
We can’t fail to be moved by what’s going on in Gaza, Ukraine or any of the other troubled parts of the world.
And many of us will respond by giving generously to the emergency appeals that all too often grace our television screens.
But giving in the quieter times? That’s more complicated.
As I walked around the marketplace looking at other people’s stalls, I was struck by the number of organizations offering incentives to give. In return for giving money, you get something in return.
I have to admit, I was a bit uncomfortable with that. But I also quite like the idea of getting a “free” gift in return for something I’ve done or given. And yet, God calls on us to give without counting the cost.
God calls us to be good stewards. And he calls us to look around us and care for those in need.
He calls for us to care and give unconditionally, just as we have been loved and blessed by him.
It was a little girl, around 8 or 9 years old, who brought this home to me. She was walking through the marketplace when she stopped to look at my charity’s stand.
She looked at the picture of the woman who had survived domestic violence and she read the words, “Without your help, I would be dead.”
And as I watched her, she reached into her pocket, pulled out her purse and emptied the entire contents into the donation box at the front of our exhibition space.
She didn’t want a free gift or incentive. She saw a need and wanted to help in whatever way she could.
The lump in my throat wouldn’t go away. Childlike simplicity always brings me back down to earth with a bump.
When I told that story on New Wine’s radio station, the presenter could hardly speak he was so moved.
I saw tears come into his eyes and he swallowed hard before he could continue with his words—a grown man weeping for the heartfelt response to great need by a child.
It’s no wonder that Jesus told his disciples that unless they became as little children, they’d never see the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4). How right that is.
I wonder sometimes whether we’re so busy trying to get our free gifts for our donations that we neglect to see the sign saying, “Kingdom of heaven. This way.”
Meanwhile, our children look up, see the sign and walk right in.
Heather Skull is a former BBC Wiltshire journalist who works for the international church-based charity Us and is a member of Zion Baptist Church, Trowbridge, in the United Kingdom. A longer version of this article first appeared on her blog and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @TractorGirl66.