Monday, May 16, 2005

Some Kind of Heaven

Generosity. What a great word.

It's like compassion with a smile on its face. When we're generous, it's really a very upbeat statement of faith...because there's no worry about insufficiency. There's an understanding that there's enough for all -- and then some.

I think being generous is what we do when we feel blessed and our cup runs over. When it happens naturally...and it is not forced out of some kind of sense of obligation...we may be unaware of how significant the act is...but that's when it's most powerful.

Here's a story of generosity I'd like to share.

Sixty years ago...WW II ended...and the concentration camps of Europe were liberated by the Russians and the English and the Americans.

Tom Lantos was imprisoned in one of those camps, a slave labor camp in Hungary. Tom was a Jew. He was there merely because of the way he worshipped God.

He was 16 when he was placed there, and somehow he managed to and bones...hanging onto life...existing on death rations...waiting for deliverance.

After the war, he was awarded a scholarship to a college in Seattle in the U.S.

In a recent television documentary featuring stories of survivors, Tom described one of the defining moments when he knew that he'd left the Holocaust behind. Something like this:

When he arrived at school in Seattle, and it was time to eat, he got on line at the cafeteria, and was handed a tray. Then, the boy who lived on tears and hunger in the slave labor camp, shuffled down the chow line, as cafeteria workers piled great mounds of food on his plate...potatoes, meat, vegetables.

At the end of the line were two great baskets, one filled with oranges, the other with bananas. He remembered his upbringing and imagined that his mother might guide him to take one piece of fruit -- either the banana or the orange.

Unsure what to do, he asked a worker standing by the baskets: "Sir, shall I take a banana or an orange?"

And then the American cafeteria guy replied, "Man you can take all the bananas and all the oranges you want!"

Tom thought to himself..."I knew then that I was in some kind of heaven."

That Tom is today Tom Lantos, venerable California Congressman.

May I be generous, and happy being generous! May you be generous, and may it fill you with happiness.

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