The Salvation Army (Tri-Cities Corps) announced Wednesday that it had received a gold coin and a gold bar in two separate bright red kettles. Each gold piece was valued at about $1,800—far more than a single kettle collects in coins in a day. This generous, anonymous gift is not limited to the Greater Chicago area—the Salvation Army receives gifts of gold in cities across the country each Christmas. I have questions. Is it the same person dropping coins in kettles in Bremerton and Huntsville and Indianapolis? Who keeps gold coins and bars just lying around? Is this a “thing” of which I am unaware? Why do the donors choose to remain anonymous? How cool is this?
Anonymous generosity is not limited to gold-collecting supporters of the Salvation Army. On Sunday we will mark not only the Second Sunday of Advent, but also the Feast Day of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. While many believe Bishop Nicholas is the model for the jolly figure we call St. Nick or Santa Claus, he was, in fact, a beautifully-robed bishop in a prosperous Turkish town in the 4th century CE. The town’s public prosperity hid its private poverty. But Bishop Nicholas saw it. He was credited with tucking gold coins in the shoes of poor children while they slept, or providing dowries for three young girls trapped in the sex trade, or delivering food to families who had none. But no one ever saw him do it; no one could pin these random acts of kindness on him. And he preferred it that way.
Anonymous Generosity. Have you ever committed such kindness?
For years, I was a regular blood and platelet donor through the American Red Cross. But when we moved to Illinois, I fell out the habit—the rhythm of donating blood or platelets every 56 days was broken. But I was snapped out of my sloth by an urgent request from the Red Cross for blood donations during the pandemic. The number of donors had plummeted, but the need had not. So, on Wednesday afternoon I donned my mask and rolled up my sleeve to give an anonymous gift to a stranger. As soon as I got home, I went on-line to schedule my next donation. Its not exactly a Bishop Nicholas-level gift, or a gold coin in a kettle, but that pint of blood makes a world of difference to someone I will never meet. I forgot how satisfying that is.
Perhaps you could mark the Feast Day of Nicholas by being anonymously generous. Tuck a chocolate kiss in the shoe of a sleeping child. Drop a coin in a kettle or a bag of groceries at the pantry. Straighten the wind-whipped wreathe of an elderly neighbor or make a double-batch of soup and share it. That single kiss or bag of groceries, that ordinary kindness or ladle of soup may not seem like much, but we bring hope to the world one gift, one kiss, one smile at a time.
We invite you to join our congregation’s generosity for The Night Ministry this Advent. Who will wear those warm socks or enjoy that hot cup of coffee? God knows. We don’t need to.
Today, at the end of the First Week of Advent, I give thanks for your steady generosity—known and unknown—to our congregation, the organizations we care about, and all the people whose lives you change every day. Bishop Nicholas would be proud—were he not so self-effacing.
One more reason to smile. My grandson, Theodore James, celebrates his first birthday today. Actually, he’s not celebrating—he’s too young to understand the pile of gifts and beaming grandparent faces on Facetime. But we are celebrating his birth and his presence in our lives. Happy Birthday, Theodorable! You make the whole world smile.
Blessed Advent. “See” you Sunday.
Pastor JoAnn Post