"Your Tears are Our Tears"
Saturday - May 9th
Today's Scripture to Read: 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
While world headlines for the last three months have covered the COVID-19 pandemic, 180 years ago, world headlines focused on the potato famine in Ireland that killed over a million people. It is estimated that another million Irish emigrated to Australia, Canda, and the United States. Donations to help the struggling people of Ireland poured in from all over the world. One of the most unlikely sources of financial benevolence came from a tribe that now makes up part of the Navajo Nation in Oklahoma.
In 1847 the Choctaw people sent $170 to help during the Irish potato famine. A decade and a half earlier, the Choctaw tribe had been a part of the hideous trail of tears that forced American Indians from their homelands to vast barren land in the west. The Irish people understood and acknowledged that their American Indian benefactors had been suffering themselves when they gave the $170 to help during the famine. During some of the milestone anniversary years since the tribe's generosity, the people of Ireland have held celebrations, dedicated plaques, and erected monuments to make sure generations would remember the kindness shown their ancestors by their friends from across the Atlantic.
Irish donors, citing that act of kindness, have given financially to help two American Indian tribes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Both tribes are a part of the Navajo Nation Oklahoma Reservation, which now officially makes up the largest reservation for both the Navajo and Hopi families. American Indians, and in particular the Navajo Nation, have been hit almost as hard by the coronavirus as New York City. But, they have had extremely limited resources to protect medical professionals and to care for those affected by the virus. A GoFundMe page created to raise funds to address the need for more resources on the reservation caught the attention of some people in Ireland. A movement to repay the kindness of the Choctaw tribe spread on social media. As of Friday morning, that GoFundMe Page has raised $3.1 million, including an estimated $850,000 from the people of Ireland.
When the Apostle Paul challenged the church at Corinth to be generous in an offering he was gathering to help the suffering church in Jerusalem, he celebrated a group of people who gave in the middle of their suffering. He spoke of how many troubles and how much poverty the Macedonian churches were experiencing when they gave out of extravagant generosity. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, the Apostle encourages all of us to have the same spirit of sharing that he witnessed in the offering given by the Macedonians.
Generosity has nothing to do with how much you give. It has everything to do with how much you give of what you have. Jesus emphasized that to the disciples when he pointed to the wealthy donating large and visible amounts to the temple treasury. He explained how they gave what they could easily spare - that wouldn't affect their lives in any way.
Jesus then pointed the disciples' attention to an elderly widow giving right behind the wealthy. She gave a tiny amount in terms of value - the equivalent of something like today's penny. Jesus said that the widow had given more than the wealthy. Her daily life was impacted by what she gave since she gave all that she had.
As the Choctaw tribe gave to the Irish people during the famine of the 1840s, they sent a simple message: "Your tears are our tears." The tribe knew pain and suffering. They had literally experienced the Trail of Tears. They gave to people in pain because they knew first hand the tears of life. Several messages posted by Irish donors to the Navajo and Hopi Tribes' GoFundMe Page, repeated the message: "Your tears are our tears."
As we see our neighbors, friends, family members, and co-workers struggling to find their footing in life, let's be generous. You might think our own struggles with isolation, economic challenges, and fear related to COVID-19 free us from giving our time, energy, and finances to others who are hurting. But according to Paul, our giving should be similar to the kindness of the Choctaw in 1847 and the Irish donors today.
Even in our own time of trouble, we should generously give to others and say, "Your tears are our tears."