As a young child, my mother taught me what it meant to give. I remember often being the "delivery girl" with goodies for sick neighbors or friends, or sharing Christmas eve with an elderly woman she met at a restaraunt who had no family and hadn't seen the magic of Christmas for decades. My mother encouraged us as children to give and share, and we were required to always give a portion of our meager allowance or earnings when the plate was passed at church. She would remind us that God would reward us someday and when he did so, it would come back ten fold. As I child I remember mentally calculating monetary amounts in my head, not understanding that God's rewards didn't necessarily include currency and dollar signs, but as a child it was easiest to see and measure.
Many of you know about my friend who has been battling cancer for almost two years and I spent the better part of my summer with fellow artist and friend Kelly Crosser-Alge organizing a fund-raising event to raise money for his family and a scholarship fund as a legacy for him. It was hard work, and took up most of the time that both of us use to create artwork and sell for our summer show circuit. At one point when we were both frustrated and weary, we questioned our wisdom of doing it, wondering if we were not taking care of our own families and priorities first. Kelly's summer show income is essential to her family's budget, while mine is not as important, so I felt a bit responsible and sorry I had enlisted her help; help that she gave willingly, that I would not have been able to do alone, and I started to worry that I would lose her support.
It was then that I told her about my mother, and all the times that she promised "ten fold", and all the times it truly did come back to me. I even taught my children the same thing, and I shared with her the example of when my children looked at me in awe the time it came true for them. Years ago, when I worked for the Boys and Girls club, It was Halloween,and I asked the kids at the club (inner city, very poor children, often with dismal home lives) if they were going to go trick or treating. Most of them said they didn't go because their folks wouldn't take them. I'm not sure why; I never asked, but I went home and told my children who have always had the privelage of a safe neighborhood, a mom who would help them make costumes, and a dad who would safely take them around. I asked my kids to give their candy to the kids at the club since they didn't get go, and promised them it would come back ten fold. I don't know about you, but I would NEVER have parted with all of my candy loot when I was 8 years old. But my boys did, and never complained. The kids at the club were thrilled of course, and a few even sent notes of thanks home to my kids. Not a week had passed when my son came home after school with a big grin on his face saying that I was right, the ten fold worked! It seems that at some point he had entered a contest at the library, a raffle, and his name was drawn as the winner. The prize: a giant bag of candy.
I was thrilled that my kids were shown in such an obvious way about the rewards of giving, because they believe it to be true to this day. They still tell the ten fold story to others as they were just as awed as I by it.
The event for my friend was a resounding success and Kelly and I went back to the business of life and art. We had to play "catch-up" for all the time we had devoted to the event, and life went on. We forgot about the loss of time and felt rewarded by the success and sheer joy we saw on our friend Scott's face during his fundraiser. Then things started to happen, good things, for both of us in ways that mattered to our own individual lives. I'm hoping Kelly will write her own ten fold blog and share her stories, but I can assure you, they are huge when it comes to what she wants for her career and life. My rewards have been interesting as well. First, I have been selling a lot more art work, and one collector (a complete stranger) did the unheard of. She purchased my painting for my asking price and then paid me 4 times the price, saying that she felt it was worth it. I was flabbergasted and grateful. Then I thought to myself: ten fold. I have also been asked to do a workshop, my first ever, at the local college, getting paid a ridiculously high amount of money for the time I have to work AND with a promise of a show in January in their gallery. Yep, ten fold.
I know instinctively that I am a giver, a helper, and I like to share, and I don't think of getting anything back when I give, but it sure is nice sometimes. My friend Scott is not doing so well with his battle. He has exhausted all of his treatment options and spends a lot of time in pain and emotional agony. For a while I didn't visit because it was hard for me and I wasn't sure if I could handle my own emotions. He has also been angry and bitter and I distanced myself from him because I didn't want be around his negativity, not realizing that I could have helped. I realized I was being selfish and I needed to be a better friend. Kelly and I took a day last week when the weather was gorgeous and helped him clean and re-organize his garage studio. We brought art materials for him to experiment with, and had a much needed visit with our friend. It's not easy to see someone you care about in pain, and we worried we weren't much help since he withdrew from his usual forms of social networking and communication after our visit. Then, out of the blue, he was back. He wrote on his blog for the first time in months and spoke about things most people just fear, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I could hardly read through my tears when I got to the end. If you read it, you too will understand. Ten Fold.
This weekend, Kelly and I were at a workshop teaching her glass techniques and we had some time in the evenings to talk about the summer and the rewards that have come to us since then. While we were talking, I glanced on the floor of the living room where we were staying and found this message.
Ten fold. God works in mysterious ways.