offerings


"None of us gets to be competent, mature people without the help of others... people who have loved us all along the way. I'd like to give you a minute to think of those who have believed in you...those who have helped you live your life knowing what was good and real. A minute of silence to remember those who have cared about us through our lives..in our being who we are right now.”
(insert one minute of silence)
“Whomever you've been thinking about, whether they're here or far away or even in heaven, imagine how pleased they'd be to know that you recognize what a difference they've made in your becoming.” fred rogers
i receive a monthly email quote from the office of family communications, inc., the organization conceived of and nurtured by mr. rogers. the quote you just read is the one i received today. if my memory serves me (and it usually does with all things mr. rogers), he delivered these words on live television when presented with a prestigious life time achievement award. i remember him at the microphone, in a tuxedo, speaking to a room full of celebrities and standing there for a full minute in complete silence. he didn’t just suggest finding a time to consider the important people in one’s life. he actually created the time. right then and there. i have always wondered how many teachers, neighbors, mentors, doctors, and parents received phone calls from those assembled that night and i’ve considered how many hallmark cards were sent the following day to those who were thought of in that minute of pause. 
last week i had the humbling honor of hanging out at biola university where i was participating in a campus wide conversation about faith and technology. before i arrived i ordered 4000 pipe cleaners to be handed out during my first talk. as many folks know, i always bring something for people to play with while i talk. it keeps them engaged and gives them something to do if they find me utterly boring. my bringing toys is nothing new. what happened after that first talk at biola, however, was utterly unique. i was brought offerings. pipe cleaner creations in the shapes of shooting stars and thumb braces (to help protect against the effects of over zealous texting) and magic carpets and genie lamps, cards with original art work and meaningful words, and tomes scribbled on the back of notes being studied for a test following my talk. later in the week more offerings were made. words, spoken and written. playdough sculptures and gluey collages. lingering conversations filled with eye contact and awkward transitions. one special student even brought me a massive jug of apple juice. “if i brought you a gift,” he said, “i thought you might remember to pray for me.” trust me phil, jug of juice or not, i will remember to pray for you.
as i packed my suitcase at the end of the week i felt a deep well of gratitude to these students who possibly felt silly, who risked being misunderstood, who likely felt awkward in offering tokens of their thanks and expressions of their struggles, their longings, and their hopes. 
these are offerings of the most precious and rare kind. for many, writing a check is easy. for others, giving time is a breeze. some offer up effort or labor without thinking twice. much less frequently, however, people feel free to take risks in making offerings. instead we give what is “safe.” what is “normal.” what is expected. we shy away, however, from offerings that are personally costly, relationally risky, and that have the possibility of being misunderstood.
as we north americans embark on a day of thanks-giving i challenge each of you to sit in a minute of silence. let the name of a person (or two or three or...) float to the surface of your mind. once there, consider an offering of gratitude that would speak deeply and directly to that individual and make it, thinking not of how silly you might feel in giving it nor how misunderstood the offering itself might be, and instead “imagin[ing] how pleased they'd be to know that you recognize what a difference they've made in your becoming.”
Doreen Dodgen-MageeComment