The leaders of a small African village were meeting to discuss how to respond to a request for help from a far away village. Sickness, pestilence, famine, and drought were afflicting them and the leaders of the remote village were crying out for help.
All of the village families are gathered together and bring everything that they can spare to send to the aid of their countrymen in the remote village. One orphaned young man stands near the periphery and listens. His heart hurts for these people that he had never met.
He struggles with wanting to help them, but due to his own abject poverty he has nothing to give. He has been blessed during his own struggles after the loss of his parents by those members of his own village - they’ve made sure that he was fed and had shelter. A young man growing up being imprinted with a view that when people are in need you help them - no questions - no surveys - no focus groups. You just do what you need to do to be sure that they have what they need.
The village elders call for the families of the village to bring their gifts and offerings to the middle near the fire and put them down. The head of family after family brings their extra blanket, bowl, or bag of flour that could be given to their suffering countryman. Each man lays his gift at the feet of the elders and backs away.
The young man, seeing the continued generosity of those who had helped him in his time of trouble slowly makes his way to the front to the line. When it is time to offer his gift he moves to the middle of the growing pile and sits down. Having nothing to give he decides to give the only thing he does have - himself. He volunteers to take all of the contribution to the remote village and stay until those he has gone to help are able to care for themselves again.
The young man who learned of care and benevolence through his own needs becomes an extreme example of this same attitude of generosity. Maybe there is a lesson in this - that when we think we have the least to offer we are actually able the give the most.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: “Here am I.”