Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes when Giving

Sometimes we give what we ought to throw away

Photo by Annie Spratt — Unsplash

I brought in the plastic bags. Putting them down on the table, I unload them, thankful I got to go to the food pantry today. Thankful I have something different to offer my family.

Opening the Duncan Hines box, I’m looking forward to making a cake. Cake is a luxury item.

Reaching for my large bowl, I feel like singing. Maybe things will be okay. Dumping the mix into the bowl, I smell a hint of vanilla. Breaking an egg, I see it. A small speck of darkness invading the white powdery mix. Looking closer I see another and another. Bugs! This box is full of tiny bugs.

The expiration date shows me this dessert was meant for last year. I empty the contents into the trash. I don’t feel much like singing now.

Feeling poor doesn’t feel good

I wipe a tear off of my face before my young daughter sees it. I only feel poor on certain days, this is one of them.

“I think I’ll make something else,” I say smiling.

“Why?” she asks.

“I just want to,” I lie.

Thankfulness is sometimes slippery

Struggling to hold onto thankfulness I wonder. Why do some people give away what they want to get rid of? How would they feel being on the receiving end?

I remember another trip to the food pantry. The volunteer behind the card table takes my information, asking me to take a seat.

When my name is called, I’m led to the first room. It’s set up like a grocery store in two rooms.

On the shelves are all kinds of canned goods. In another section I see boxes of cereal, boxes of crackers. Taped to some shelves are little pieces of paper with numbers on them. The tag reads:

3–4 people in the family: 2 cans

As the volunteer watches me, I take two cans. She says,“No, you only get 1 can, you have two people in your family.”

“I have three people in my family,” I whisper.

She starts to argue and then checks my card she is holding. “Oh, you’re right.”

I feel like I’ve been caught stealing, except I haven’t.

We move over to the paper goods area. I get to choose one item, either paper towels, toilet paper, or napkins. I choose toilet paper. I watch as she takes the four-pack and tears it open. She puts one roll on the shelf and hands me the three.

I hardly look up

I hear only fragments of what she’s telling me. “…all the baked goods you’d like…you can take two packs of gum or two candy bars per child…”

I stuff my feelings down and go through the motions. Thanking her, I push the metal cart out to my car. The noise from the squeaky wheels makes it impossible to slip out quietly. I hope I don’t see anyone I know.

By the time I open my trunk, my tears won’t stop. I don’t ever want to come back here again.

Returning the cart I see a friend who works there.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, seeing my face.

I relay my experience, letting the tears fall as they may. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I almost brought the food back in. But I do want you to know, I have appreciated all the food I’ve ever received from here.”

“I’m so sorry,” she says, “Please come back.”

But I wrestle in my mind. There is no food worth giving up my dignity.

One month later…

It’s that time again. Do I go to the food pantry? I play the different scenarios in my mind, but eventually I decide to try it one more time.

Something is different. No one opens the package of toilet paper to keep a roll. No one challenges me when I take my two cans of soup. I felt heard.

It’s hard to be a person in need.

Sadly, some people judge others by what they have. Their philosophy might be, “If you have little, you are worth little.”

A missionary couple living overseas received a care package from one of their church supporters. They felt excited as they went through each item in the box. Until they opened a small container tucked in the bottom. The contents? Slivers of soap. Next to it was a small tin filled with used tea bags.

Needless to say, this couple was discouraged by the time they got to the bottom of the box.

What NOT to do when giving

It’s easy to make mistakes when we give, to think people should be thankful no matter what they receive, especially when they don’t have as much.

Here’s 3 things to avoid:

1. Giving what you ought to toss out

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “Would I want to receive this for my family?” When in doubt, toss it out.

We should only give to others what we would want to receive. (Tweet that)

2. Having strings attached to what you give

When we give freely, we have no expectations.

If we are disappointed with how others receive our gifts, perhaps we should check to see if there are any strings attached.

3. Giving only when others know it

If we cannot give anonymously at times, maybe our motives aren’t right. Giving is not a spectator sport.

Receiving a gift can make a person feel loved. It can make a person feel as if they have value. On the other hand, it can also make someone feel less than,like a sliver of soap or a used teabag.

Originally published at

Call to Action:

Have you ever been on the receiving end?
What has been your experience?
What need of yours has God met in a special way?
I’d love to hear from you.