THE GENEROUS TREE

A man was travelling through the desert.  He was hungry, thirsty and tired when he found a tree that provided abundant shade, delicious fruit, and a spring ran under it.

The man ate of the fruit, drank of the water and rested in the shade.

When he was ready to resume his journey he turned toward the tree and said:

“Tree, how shall I bless you? Shall I bless you with sweet fruit? Your fruit is already sweet. Shall I bless you with abundant shade? Your shade is already abundant. Shall I ask for a spring to run under you?  A spring is already running under you. There is one thing with which I can bless you: May it be God’s will for all the trees that come from your seed to be like you.”

Source: Talmud Bavli, Taanit, 5b
Quoted in  Pablo R. Andinach
The Book of Gratitudes: An Encounter Between Life and Faith
(Wipf & Stock, 2016) page 93

CONSIDER THIS

A blessing is an act, gesture or word whereby one person transmits the power of life to another. | Walter Brueggemann

How do you, like the generous tree in the story, transmit the power of life to another?

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BEING BLESSED BY GIVING

A monk had a brother living in the world who was poor, and so he supplied him with all he received from his work. But the more the monk supplied, the poorer the brother became. So the monk went to tell an old man about it. The old man said to him, “If you want my advice, do not give him anything more, but say to him, ‘Brother, when I had something I supplied you; now bring me what you get from your work.’ Take all he brings you, and whenever you see a stranger or a poor man, give him some of it, begging him to pray for him.”

The monk went away and did this. When his secular brother came, he spoke to him as the old man had said, and the brother went sadly away. The first day, taking some vegetables from his field, he brought them to the monk. The monk took them and gave them to the old men, begging them to pray for his brother, and after the blessing he returned home. In the same way, another time, the brother brought the monk some vegetables and three loaves, which he took, doing as on the first occasion, and having received the blessing he went away.

And the secular brother came a third time bringing many provisions, some bread, and fish. Seeing this, the monk was full of wonder, and he invited the poor so as to give them refreshment. Then he said to his brother, “Do you not need a little bread?” The other said to him, “No, for when I used to receive something from you, it was like fire coming into my house and burning it, but now that I receive nothing from you, God blesses me.”

Then the monk went to tell the old man all that had happened, and the old man said to him, “Do you not know that the work of the monk is of fire, and where it enters, it burns? It helps your brother more to do alms with what he reaps from his field, and to receive the prayers of the saints and thus to be blessed.”

Source | Sr. Benedicta Ward, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
(Oxford: SLG Press, 1986), pages 43-44

CONSIDER THIS

Blessings sometimes show up in unrecognizable disguises. One very common disguise is the art of giving generously and without counting the cost.

THE LITTLE NEW YEAR

One cold morning Maurice awoke from his dreams and sat up in bed and listened. He thought he heard a knock at his window; but though the moon was shining brightly, Jack Frost had been so busily at work that Maurice could not see through the thickly painted panes. So he crept sleepily out of bed, and opened the window, and whispered: “Who is there?”

“I am,” replied a tinkling voice. “I am the little New Year, ho! ho! And I’ve promised to bring a blessing to everyone. But I am such a little fellow I need somebody to help me distribute them. Won’t you please come out and help?”

“Oh, it’s so cold!” said Maurice; “I’d rather go back to my warm bed;”  and he shivered as Jack Frost, who was passing, tickled him under the chin with one of the frosty paint brushes.

“Never mind the cold,” urged the New Year; “please help me.”

So Maurice hurried into his clothes, and was soon out in the yard. There he found a rosy-cheeked boy a little smaller than himself, pulling a large cart which seemed to be loaded with good things. On one side of this cart was painted the word “Love,” and on the other “Kindness.” As soon as the New Year saw Maurice he said, “Now please take hold and help me pull;” and down the driveway and up the hill they traveled until they came to an old shanty.

“Here is where I make my first call,” said the New Year. Maurice looked wonderingly at him. “Why, nobody lives here but an old colored man who works for us; and he hasn’t any children!” “He needs my help,” said the New Year; “for grown people like to be thought of just as much as children do. You shovel out a path to his door, while I unload some of my blessings; and the little hands went busily at work, piling up warm clothing, wood, and a new year’s dinner, the New Year singing as he worked:—

“Oh, I am the little New Year; ho! ho!
Here I come tripping it over the snow,
Shaking my bells with a merry din;
So open your door and let me in.”

Old Joe, hearing some noise outside, came to the door, and when he saw all the nice gifts the tears ran down his cheeks for gladness; and as he carried them into the house, he whispered: “The dear Lord has been here to-night.”

“Where am we going now?” asked Maurice, as they ran down the hill. “To take some flowers to a poor sick girl,” answered the New Year.

Soon they came to a small white house, where the New Year stopped. “Why, Bessie, our sewing girl lives, here,” said Maurice. “I didn’t know she was sick.” “See,” said the New Year, “this window is open a little; let us throw this bunch of pinks into the room. They will please her when she wakes, and will make her happy for several days.”

Then they hurried to other places, leaving some blessing behind them.

“What a wonderful cart you have,” said Maurice; “though you have taken so much out, it never seems to get empty.” “You are right, Maurice, there is never any end to love and kindness. As long as I find people to love and be kind to, my cart is full of blessings for them; and it will never grow empty until I can no longer find people to help. If you will go with me every day and help me scatter my blessings, you will see how happy you will be all the long year.”

“A happy New Year!” called someone; and Maurice found himself in bed, and his sister standing in the doorway smiling at him. “Have you had a pleasant dream, dear?” she asked.

“Why, where is the little New Year?” said Maurice; “he was just here with me.”

“Come into Mamma’s room and see what he has brought you,” answered his sister. There in a snowy white cradle he found a tiny baby brother, the gift of the New Year. How happy Maurice was then! But he did not forget his dream. Old Joe and Bessie had their gifts, too, and Maurice tried so hard to be helpful that he made all his friends glad because the happy New Year had come.

Source | Ellen Robena Field,
Buttercup Gold and Other Stories (1894)

CONSIDER THIS

You are the Maurice in the story: how do you imagine yourself conspiring with each new dawn to make sure you will have something to give to those who cross your path today?