Somebody left an anonymous gift for me – I hope I never find out who did it

A few years ago, I moved to a window office at work and sent an email around letting everyone know I had relocated. In the email, I jokingly invited everyone to come by for a “tour” of the new space and apologized that I didn’t have any hors d’oeuvres for my guests.

Well, I didn’t have hors d’oeuvres yet.

I was in a meeting that morning and when I got back to my office, there was a box of Dunkin’ Donuts on my desk. There was a note on it with a message that ended: “Happy new office!” The person didn’t sign it or leave clues about who they were. I was so grateful for that.

I didn’t feel like I owed anyone or that someone was trying to get something from me. In fact, I found myself attributing all the goodwill to everyone in the office. It was such a contrast to what I did on the beach a couple of weeks before that.

The tide was steadily coming in, and on the shore, there were two nice beach chairs that were about to be taken out by the waves. The owners were nowhere to be seen, so I moved the chairs again and again as the tide rose. When the couple who owned the chairs finally showed up, I couldn’t help myself. I went over, pointed to the crashing waves, and said, “A couple of hours ago, your chairs were out there.”

“Oh, thanks so much for pulling them in,” said the guy. “We just realized they were out here and figured they had probably gotten washed away.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, as I walked away. Then these words came to my mind: “You have your reward.”

Jesus said, “When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the … streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get” (Matthew 6:2).

Beware of anyone who lets you know what they did for you, and beware of any desire in you to let others know what you’ve done for them. People who “blow trumpets” to announce their good deeds are looking for a reward and they resent those who don’t celebrate their faux generosity.

So, for example, when I went over to the couple on the beach, I was looking for affirmation. If the guy would’ve shrugged his shoulders after I announced my magnanimous deed of chair moving, it would’ve bothered me. It wasn’t enough to let the man wonder who it was — or worse — not even realize it had been done.

When someone gives anonymously, there’s total freedom. Nobody owes anybody else; nobody’s trying to manipulate; nobody has an agenda. They’re just giving for the sake of communicating an invaluable message: “You’re loved. Somebody cares about you. You’re important to someone and it has nothing to do with what you can give in return.”

When we experience the pleasure of giving anonymously, we do more than show kindness: We leave the recipient with the holy mystery of who cares for them so much. And in doing so, we increase the likelihood that they will direct their gratitude towards God, who deserves the credit anyway.

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