Coffee, Ice cream and Other Things I Don't Like to Share

An ear-piercing shriek breaks the silence and jolts my whole body. I run to my daughter’s bedroom certain that I am about to find my beloved child covered in blood or lying on the floor with a broken limb.

No such drama.

My three-year-old is screaming because her sister won’t share her toy. My frantic concern quickly turns to real anger as I realize that this overdramatic tot has shattered the peace for purely selfish reasons. I take deep breaths so that I also don’t overreact to the situation and find myself robotically quoting my sharing and taking turns speech.

“Sweetheart, we don’t scream at people when they don’t give us what we want. You will have to wait your turn to play with that toy,” then turning to my other daughter, “And you need to ask Jesus to help you have a heart that wants to share.”

Sometimes, this is enough. Sometimes, time-outs are required. Either way, I find myself quoting this speech often with my four daughters.

Truth be told, I have to quote this speech to myself sometimes, too. Not getting what I want still puts me out a bit, even at this age. And sharing what I have sometimes feels like too much expectation-especially when it comes to sharing coffee, ice cream or chocolate. If I share any of those things with you, then you are really special. My kids aren't special. 

After 36 years, I can still sense a bit of the selfish child within. I have to quote my speech to her, reminding her that we are not the same as we used to be, that it is time to stop acting like a spoiled brat and adult already. And also, that we are not a split personality so let’s stop talking to ourselves…

I am reminded of a story my husband told me about a woman he and his friends met while he was visiting Cuba. The woman’s husband made introductions and then asked his wife to make coffee for their guests. She informed him that their one source for heating all their food, a single hot plate, was broken and so there would be no hot water for coffee. Her husband then asked her to make it the old fashioned way. This meant, “Go outside and heat the water on an open fire.” So she did. It took her much longer, and required infinitely more work to gather fuel for the fire and then heat water on it. I’ve only ever done this for fun when camping out with the family, and I'm not sure after working so hard to make coffee that I would have shared it. This woman could have refused, it is after all just coffee. Surely, these guests would understand. But she didn’t. She shared what she had and went the extra mile to do so. (My husband and his friends bought her a new hot plate before they returned home as a thank you.)

This made me think about all the excuses I make about why I can’t share what I have. I often figure that what I have is not good enough and don’t want to risk embarrassment. I also sometimes think that the amount needed is more than I can give, so surely someone else has better means with which to help. Oh, I can find lots of reasons why I can’t share.

But there was once this widow who gave a penny in the offering, and here’s what Jesus said about it,

Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had to live on.   Mark 12:41-44

Well. That pretty much nullifies every excuse I have. I can share. I can share my time, my energy, my money, my home, my food, my clothes, my car, gulp, even my coffee…and so much more. Whether it seems like a little or a lot, when we start making a list of all the things we could share, we start to see how much we really have. I would have to give away a lot of things before I got to where the widow was. That penny was everything she had to live on. That’s not much, y’all.

My prayer for us today is that we would stop making excuses for why we can’t share. May we be willing to go the extra mile to open our homes and practice joyful hospitality to our community. May we be happy to give up buying a new______________ so that we can give away some of our money. May we be willing to set aside the things we want to do, and share our time with our children. May we put away childish things so that we can love people better and obey God more faithfully.

And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God... Acts 2:45-47