Author Walter Burghardt writes about a 33-year old cab driver in New York who prayed to God around the time of Thanksgiving for guidance on how to help the forgotten people of the streets, those people, he believed, “that existed in life’s shadows.”
The cab driver reported to the New York Times that just after he made his request, he heard a loud voice telling him to, “Make eight pounds of spaghetti, throw it in a pot, give it out on 103rd Street and Broadway with no conditions, and people will come.”
So, that’s just what the cab driver did and true to the divine proclamation, the people did come.
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Burghardt goes on to write that every night since the arrival of this heavenly revelation, the cabby has been walking the streets of New York City giving people food to eat. He asked for guidance on how to care for the poor, Burghardt explains, and he was given just what he asked for, the answer.
It’s not earth shattering, this response to a prayer. It is a simple solution of getting food to the hungry, spaghetti for dinner. It is hardly a complex solution.
And yet, there is something powerful for me in these instructions. What resonates with me, what seems difficult to accomplish, is how to give. The difficulty comes in the phrase, “with no conditions.”
It is my experience that so often when we give gifts to one another, when we respond to requests for help, when we willingly share our resources with the poor, we give with many conditions.
For example, many refuse to give money to someone in need because there’s no guarantee that the recipient will use the gift in ways we think are wise. Or we give someone a present tied with strings of required reciprocation or the expectation that we will be thanked in some proper manner.
Most of the time we want to feel appreciated or recognize gratitude on the face of the one we have gifted. And we are often disgruntled and unhappy, resentful and irritable, when we don’t receive that measure of gratitude that we were expecting.
I’d say I hang out with a generous crowd. Most of the people I know give gifts. Most of those I associate with willingly share with others; but I’d also have to say many of those people, myself included don’t really know how to give “with no conditions.”
We prefer gratitude; and many of us will not give any longer to someone or some cause if we decide that they are ungrateful or careless with our offerings.
I hope to be like this cab driver one day.
I hope to care enough about the poor and the hungry to be willing to ask God to show me clearly what I need to do; and then I hope I am able to do exactly what I have been told, feed the hungry, share with others, cheerfully and wholeheartedly, with no conditions.
Lynne Hinton is a co-pastor of Mt. Hope United Church of Christ in Whitsett (Guilford County) and author. Her newest book is called Traveling Light. Learn more: www.lynnehinton.com