“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
-1 John 3:17
Today is the National Day of Charity. Call me an optimist, but I truly believe most people possess an innate desire to help others. However, in this era of crowd-funding and the evolution of many large-scale charitable organizations into corporations where your donations may go to an executive’s six-figure salary, it can be difficult to choose exactly how and where to help.
The Bible tells us, in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” What does this mean for us when we decide we are ready to share the bounty the Lord has provided? Doesn’t being cheerful about giving kind of negate the whole point of sacrifice? Personally, I have found meaningful application of this passage by carefully choosing a charity that is not only evidence of people on earth following the messages of Christ, but also one with which I share a deep and special connection.
After my grandmother died in 2008, she left a portion of her estate to me. My grandmother, Mary Francis Martin Wunder Kimbrall, lived a life that exemplified service to others, both at home as a devoted single mother (something that was neither accepted nor made easier by society in the 1950’s), and at work as a social worker at Thompson Orphanage in Charlotte, North Carolina. I knew that the best way to use the legacy she had left me was to honor her through a charitable donation.
My first instinct was to donate the funds to the National Alzheimer’s Association. It was that disease that tarnished what should have been my grandmother’s golden years, the disease that robbed her from attending graduations, weddings, great-grandbabies and so many other experiences she would have treasured. It robbed me of getting to know her as more than just the grandmother who shared my love of walnuts and stray cats. I was fifteen when she began showing symptoms of the disease, too young to appreciate the fascinating story of a woman who fought prejudice and ignorance as she cared for the most vulnerable of society, a woman who in her later years travelled the world on mission trips, sharing her faith and friendship with people of all races and creeds.
At her funeral, I mourned not only the wonderful grandmother I remembered, but the entirety of the person I would never get the chance to know. People spoke at the memorial about the time she spent working at the orphanage, about her great heart for children and the passionate advocacy she displayed in her chosen profession. It was those stories that drove me to research the organization that had meant so much to her and she to it. That research eventually inspired my story, With My Soul, and the orphanage depicted in it that changed the lives of the children it housed and the people who cared for them.
Thompson Child and Family Focus is no longer an orphanage, but has evolved to become a non-profit organization serving the needs of children and families throughout the state of North Carolina. It provides treatment and care for individuals at risk and suffering from mental illness, foster care education and placement, and educational services for children of all ages. In an age where violence has become a weekly headline and mental illness a tragic footnote to these stories, Thompson is an organization that is actually making a difference for children and families caught at tenuous crossroads. Mental health and intervention to prevent violent behavior is an issue that we hear politicians give a lot of lip service to; however, the men and women working at Thompson’s five different locations are providing active service that for many of these young families is the difference between life and death.
At that time in our lives, my husband and I were newlyweds living in a tiny apartment. We slept on a mattress in one bedroom and ate ramen noodles in plastic folding chairs. I was working two jobs and we were saving every penny for a house and our future children. It would have been really easy and fun to spend that money on a vacation or furniture. Giving it away was definitely a sacrifice and not an easy one. But about a month later, I got a phone call from a North Carolina number. It was an employee from Thompson’s calling to thank me for the donation.
“I noticed you’re not a local number. How did you hear about us?” The friendly southern accent drawled at me from the other end of the line. Her voice reminded me so much of Gram. It was all I could do not to burst into tears when I answered.
“My grandmother worked at Thompson’s for most of her adult life. Her name was Mary Francis Martin Wunder.” (The Kimbrall was added on later when she finally married again at the age of 83.)
“Oh, Mary Wunder! I’ve read about her in our archives. She was quite a pioneer back in the early days, wasn’t she?”
It was at that point that I did start crying, but now they were tears of joy. My grandmother would not become just another statistic of an epidemic ravaging our country, a full, courageous life lost to the shadows of disease. She was remembered, honored, her legacy of love continuing on through the next generation of people in this wonderful organization. In that moment, the burden of grief and loss weighing on my heart was lifted.
Every year we donate to Thompson’s in my grandmother’s memory. It is a gift that I give cheerfully, knowing that my small contribution fulfills the promise she made all those years ago, the promise to care for all God’s children as if they were her own.
I don’t write this to glorify my own deeds. The Lord has blessed me far beyond what I deserve and anything I contribute in this life is nothing compared the grace He gives so abundantly to all who come to Him. Nor do I write this to solicit donations to Thompson’s. It is just one among so many organizations out there that need your help and are worthy of your valuable contributions, whether they are of your time, your money or your talents. I write this as an illustration for how the Word of God is alive through us and our actions. If you are pulled to share any of the gifts you have received, but unsure of where those gifts will be best put to use, look to your heart and ask God to guide it.
“He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.”
For more information about Thompson Child and Family Focus: https://www.thompsoncff.org
Learn more about our new author, Laurie Batzel, and her upcoming novel, With My Soul HERE.
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