Giving a gift of sharing often means accepting blessings offered

By on January 1, 2004

I once read a long moan about the appalling thoughtlessness and rudeness of modern youth that sounded like a Victorian grandparent of mine on a bad day.

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It lamented the depravity of manners of the young and the laxity of their parents which had caused this deplorable state of affairs to arise.

The origin of the document, however, was well before Victorian times; it came from the days of the Pharaohs of Egypt.

So, this particular form of intergenerational complaining has been with us since the beginning of writing.

The author is not talking of gang warfare, for example, of other forms of violence or bullying among the young themselves ? a desperately serious issue that warrants grave concern ? but of civility towards the old.

Well, I certainly qualify in the category “old,” but I have a rather different song to sing.

Increasingly, I find myself (especially on public transit) the recipient of offers of help from young people, mostly in the form of a seat on the subway or the streetcar.

Until recently I have declined such offers with a smile and a shake of the head. (Ten years ago when hotel clerks would offer the seniors’ rate, I used to decline quite huffily, “I don’t qualify”!)

But now I accept. Partly out of relief for aching legs and feet, but mostly in order to give a blessing.

The blessing stems from the words of Jesus in Acts that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” By accepting their gift I give them the gift of sharing in the blessedness of which Jesus speaks, and a smile at no additional expense.

In the Anglican Communion we have for more than 30 years used the phrase “Partnership in Mission,” but we have sometimes found it easier to give than to receive.

I recall 30 years ago, on my first visit to Africa, being with a family ? non-Christian husband, his six wives becoming Christian, and their children living as a community in the arid sub-Saharan semi-desert. One of the wives offered me an egg as a gift. It was obviously a gift of value, given the small number of hens. My first instinct was to say, “Thank you, but I couldn’t.” But my colleague told me that the last three words of that response were not appropriate. Just stop at “thank you.”

And those are the words with which I leave.

By the time the next edition of Anglican Journal appears, I shall no longer be the primate, so this is my last Grace Notes.

Occasionally someone says to me that they will miss it.

I won’t.

I don’t write easily or quickly. Even worse, the older I get, the harder it is to conjure up a fresh idea ? even only once a month!

But you, the church, have been very good to me, and thank you is once again the only word.

God bless. Archbishop Michael Peers is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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