Our forty-first president, George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), was remembered upon his death through his own words calling for a “kinder and gentler” America that would become better through “1,000 points of light.” Such a spirit of remembrance seems appropriate for “41,” given the overall measure of the man and despite some savage campaign ads he later came to regret. In high school and college, classmates dubbed Bush “Have-Half” because he was always willing to share. They described his generosity as an unself-conscious dimension of his whole personality.
Personally, I’d love to be known as a Have-Half guy. I’d love for you who read this blog to be known by your friends as Have-Half. It’s quite a lovely nickname, if you think about it, especially if it runs true to your character. A person for whom generosity is second nature is like the one Jesus mentions giving alms “without the left hand knowing what the right is doing” (Matthew 6:3).
To me, the most startling dimension of generosity is the irrelevance of means. Generosity has everything to do with desire and nothing to do with economic means. The poorest of the poor can be as generous in spirit as the richest of the rich. The widow in the temple who gave her last two coins is emblematic of one whose desire runs deep. So are the men whom Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl remembers walking through the barracks comforting others and giving away their last piece of bread.
When 5000 people sat hungry before Jesus one day, and the disciples saw only scarcity, Jesus stepped in to transform their frugal thinking into the mystery of abundance. He understood that breaking open five loaves and sharing two fish would provide more than enough for all.
It can be hard to see how generosity fuels abundance in a world where fairness and reciprocation hold such prominent respect. “There is no free lunch,” we hear. “You get what you deserve,” others say. Grousing and whining come easily when other people seem to land a better deal in life than we think we’ve landed. But what happens when people love you more than you deserve? And what do you make of a God who forgives you in ways for which you can’t possibly repay?
A Have-Half life is available to everybody. Anyone can learn how to share lavishly. That’s because generosity is one of the nine fruits of the spirit touted in Galatians 5:22-23. It can be cultivated. This is fruit that can ripen over time. People bending over backwards for others, not out of obligation but out of desire – that’s what you call a Have-Half life! I want it for myself … and I want it for you.