A wise person once commented that there are three kinds of givers in the world: the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything from a flint, you must hammer it. Yet all you get for your effort are chips and some showy sparks. The flint gives nothing away if it can help it, and even then only with great display. To get anything from a sponge, you must squeeze it. It readily yields to pressure, and the more it is pressed, the more it gives. Still, it has to be squeezed. To get anything from the honeycomb, on the other hand, we must simply take what freely flows from it. It gives its sweetness generously, without pressure, without begging, without badgering. The honeycomb is a renewable resource. Unlike the flint or the sponge, the honeycomb is connected to life; it is the product of the ongoing work and creative energy of bees.
Which sort of giver best describes you? Are you a flint, a sponge, or a honeycomb? Do you give grudgingly, only under pressure, or do you offer what you have willingly, with the awareness that you are connected to a source of vitality and your life’s resources will continually be replenished and renewed?
We live in a world with desperate needs. And we are each bombarded with opportunities to give in ways that might relieve a bit of the hardship others face. Of course, because the appeals made to us for money and energy are so constant and so compelling, we can become overwhelmed and unsure of how to respond. Perhaps we are even tempted to tune out the chorus of voices making their pleas for our gifts. But simply because we cannot remedy the worlds ills by ourselves, does not mean that we can’t begin somewhere, with some project or cause of significance, and make some difference.
There’s an old story that tells of a little boy who walked the beach one morning after a great storm had passed by. Hundreds of starfish had been washed onto the beach and stranded. As the sun was breaking out and the waters were receding, the stranded starfish were beginning to dry and to die. The little boy saw the problem and quickly began flinging starfish back into the sea – one after another, after another. Eventually a man happened by who paused to watch the little boy in his diligent efforts. He eventually approached the boy and said, “Look son, there are hundreds of starfish caught on the sand. You can’t possibly make much difference by throwing a few back.” The little boy paused, gazed at the starfish he held in his hand, and then flung it as far out into the sea as he could manage. “Well, mister,” he said, “I guess it made a difference to that one.”
The challenge before us is as daunting as the one faced by the little boy and the stranded starfish. Of course we cannot meet the world’s every need. But we can meet some of them. And we can be sustained in our efforts by the awareness that our generous, creative, and self-giving God stands by to replenish and renew us as we allow goodness to flow through us to others. Why be a flint or a sponge – when being a honeycomb is so much sweeter?