“Surely, of all the Christian graces, that charity, which vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, beareth and endureth all things, is the most hard to attain. I daily feel it so. It is so difficult to bear with patience and allowance the faults of others.” J.C. Augustus Hare, 1827
The holidays came. I needed money and secured a job at a department store selling shirts, hair brushes and cologne. I sold anything hanging limply on a rack or not nailed down. I hated it. The boss, a lifer, dumped the menial tasks on the “seasonals.” The clerk, Becky, a sacred cow, ignored the work until the boss appeared.
Behind the scenes, she spewed acid, caustic toward anyone who didn’t meld to her manner. With customers, she exuded politeness, grace and charm — a real polisher. The staff endured her. The patrons loved her. On both sides, she played favorites. Team building evaded her. What’s the purpose when you rule the rooster? Sacred cows define themselves by self-interest. Becky could be anybody, anywhere, in any place, in any organization. Embodied in the characterization is an “every person” quality. No, we do not all behave like Becky, but at one time in life, we thought it. Augustus Hare asks, in 1827 no less, “Is not charity the hardest of Christian graces to attain?”
During our long days when time is short, we engage, and in every engagement charity seeks to exist. Inside us lies its seed, the thought of neighbor before self, the word spoken or the one withheld, our tone as much as our heart, our action, however feeble. Charity is our simple thank you to God for his love. It gives feet to our empathy.
If there is one Becky, there is more. Her memory might as well be a song stuck in my head. The song suppresses God’s voice calling me to charity. I think, if I am not like her, I am safe, but did not God intend to disturb me with Becky? Will I allow safety to stifle my faith? Without action, does not faith suffer spiritual decay? How do we move toward charity? I read somewhere when life’s demands assail our mind, you can take one breath to let go, one breath to be here, one breath to ask now what? Charity begins in the “now what.” If our supplication is earnest, charity is hard, but not unattainable. If we are to get there, Paul reminds us, “… circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter” (Romans 2:29).
We can move toward charity as a first thought with a heartfelt intent followed by real expression. Grace may come freely, unattained, but charity does not oppose effort. It begins in the pause that halts our Pavlovian response and compels empathy. Surely, of all things, charity waits for us.
Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He liveswith his family in Dalton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.