Money was scarce when I was growing up. I never lacked anything vital, but I never had so much that I could casually give something away without feeling the pinch.
Once when I was 17, a homeless person asked me for some money. I had been taught that giving brought good things back to you, so I calculated how much money I needed for my train fare home and gave him the rest—around ¥500, or roughly US$7. It was difficult giving away my last bit of pocket money. While I can’t say that because I gave $7 I got back X dollars in return, I do know that over the years I’ve received enough back to firmly believe in the “law of returns.”
Last Christmas, the magical spark never came. I was bothered by all the commercialism that plagues our city months in advance. Somewhere between the flashy ads in magazines and feeling I didn’t have much to offer Jesus due to the limitations of our circumstances, I lost my enthusiasm. I wasn’t looking forward to decorating the tree, neither did I want the guilt and stress that would come from cramming and rushing to “make things meaningful.”
Right after graduating from high school, two friends and I decided to travel around the western Mediterranean. It was 1969, and the streets of Europe were filled with young people roaming and searching for meaning in their lives. We took a train to Naples in southern Italy, then an overnight ferry to Tunis. Next, we traveled along the North African coast, hitching rides with local trucks and cars.
When I met Jesus, life became like a bike ride. It was a tandem bike; I rode in the front and steered, and Jesus was in the rear seat, helping to pedal.
I don’t remember just when it happened, but Jesus suggested we change places. Life hasn’t been the same since. Jesus makes the ride so exciting!
Two thousand one hundred! Not a date but a number. Bono, the lead singer of rock band U2, known for his anti-poverty campaigns, notes that this is how many mentions of poverty there are in the Scriptures: “That’s a lot of airtime.”1 In the introduction to the Poverty and Justice Bible,2 the Bible Society adds, “A concern for the poor and an emphasis on just and fair behaviour flows through the Bible like a river. It underpins the laws of the Old Testament and resounds through the words of the prophets; it forms a core part of all that Jesus said and did and shapes the activities of those who followed him.”
In a series of experiments conducted a few years back, dogs were given the command “shake,” and they were normally happy to do so whether they got a reward or not. However, researchers found that if the dogs saw that another dog was being rewarded and they weren’t, they began hesitating to obey the command and eventually stopped cooperating altogether. The dogs knew when they were being treated unfairly, and they didn’t like it.1 If even dogs can understand when something isn’t fair, how much more will people know when they’re being treated unfairly!
My first visit to the Exit rock festival—held annually in the shadow of a beautiful castle in Novi Sad, a pretty Serbian town on the Danube River—was unforgettable. There were stages everywhere and the streets were filled with crowds, huge tent villages resounding with all styles of music, aromas of chevapi, the local meat dish, and an atmosphere of brotherhood, havoc, and freedom. But for a time it looked as though I wasn’t going to take part at all.
It was a dull and rainy day as I sat at the window of a small brick row house in Leicester, England, watching the rain form small rivers on the window pane. A friend was letting me stay at his house while he was away and I helped care for a terminally ill loved one. It was a half-hour bus ride from the house to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, where I spent most of my days.
Love for others is a part of My divine nature, and when you receive Me, it becomes a part of yours too. Even though it is freely yours, you are still responsible to put it into practice and apply it. How? One step at a time, with one loving deed, followed by another, followed by another.
You can show My love to others in many ways—through forgiveness, mercy, kindness, thoughtfulness, concern, understanding, words of love, words of encouragement, words of praise, taking time to talk, taking time to listen, sympathizing, sharing the load, and giving of yourself even when it’s least expected or least deserved.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.