Almsgiving on a Stipend
Editor’s note: DC Service Corps member Matthew Hinderberger volunteers at Christ House, a home for men experiencing homelessness with acute medical needs. Inspired by the call to increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent, Matthew reflects on creative ways to give alms, even while living on a stipend or limited income.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
Looking at this passage from Matthew, the first thoughts that I have are, Jesus gives the man a task to complete in order to be perfect. He tells the rich man to give up all of his wealth, sell everything he owns, give the money to the poor, and come and follow Him. In this way, Jesus says, you will have treasure in heaven. This is, in my eyes, the definition of almsgiving.
In this Lenten season, I’ve heard a lot about almsgiving. Usually, when people think of almsgiving, it pertains to the giving of material things such as money or food. That is not the only way that one can practice almsgiving to those who may be in need of it. In this year of service, I am practicing almsgiving by giving my time and energy to those at my ministry site.
I try to have a spirit of accessibility and abundance at my ministry site. We have a sun room on the second floor of our building that a lot of residents like to hang out in. What I have found to be very well received is striking up conversations with those men that are sitting in the room because they are usually looking for a conversation.
There is one gentleman that I have a very similar interaction with each morning. He is always in the sunroom reading the paper. I started off by asking him how the news was, and he said that it wasn’t great. I replied, “So there is no good news at all?” He said no and chuckled. Now, every morning I ask him if there is any good news in the paper, and he always laughs and asks me why I want good news. This has led to many a good conversation with him and many others that have been in the sun room at the time of our interactions each morning. It has been noticeable ever since we have started having these interactions that he seems to be in a much lighter mood than before we had these interactions. I’m not saying that I am the cure-all for the way he is feeling, but to some extent I feel as though a little time for connection goes a long way.
Since I am practicing Franciscan values and living simply on a stipend this year, I have found money to not be abundant, and so finding a way to practice almsgiving by donating money would be quite difficult. In thinking about almsgiving and how I could adapt the concept to the current lifestyle that I am living, the one thing that came to mind was finding a meaningful way to use my non-productive time through acts of service and or volunteering. The way that I believe that I will start to incorporate this into my daily life will be at my ministry site.
Question for reflection: What is one way you could “give alms” with your time and energy this Lent?