Receiving an unexpected gift is a wonderful blessing. Shakespeare had something to say about how we should respond to one in Twelfth Night: ‘I can no answer make but thanks and thanks and ever thanks...’
As Christians, we give because God asks us to. We don’t do it for thanks, but out of gratitude for everything that we’ve been given by him. Responding with thanks for the gifts with which we’re blessed is not only biblical, but common sense. Who doesn’t love a thank you?
Robin Peake, Senior Fundraising Executive at Home for Good, is a big believer in gratitude. He told us a story that made him realise just how important it was.
“Five years ago, my wife and I were given a sizeable chunk of money by my parents to help us buy a house. It was that most beautiful of things: an unexpected gift. We both felt that we wanted to give some of it away. We checked this with my parents and having prayed about it separately, my wife and I came up with the same charity and gave a gift of £5,000. It was a massively joyful experience. It was the biggest gift we’d ever made and it felt liberating.”
In faith, Robin and his wife gave away the £5,000 before they’d worked out how much deposit they’d need for their house. Full of excitement, they waited to hear back from the charity. They were surprised to receive no communication, not even an acknowledgement.
“Six weeks later, we contacted the charity to check our gift had arrived safely. Two hours after that, a generic email landed in my inbox saying that it had. That was it. To be honest, at the time we felt robbed of the joy that we’d experienced in giving. We know that this is a rare occurrence, but it did remind us of the importance of expressing gratitude.”
Gertrude Stein once said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” How do you feel when you give a gift, or help someone out, or make a sacrifice for someone else’s benefit and don’t receive a thank you? We all know that a quick text or WhatsApp takes seconds to compose and send, and even a phone call is only a few minutes long. Does a lack of gratitude discourage you from being generous another time? As 2 Corinthians 9:7 reminds us, each of us should give what we in our hearts have decided to give. If we’re not doing it for the thank you, does gratitude really matter?
A thank you can feel like the beginning of a relationship between the donor and recipient. At the very least, it lets the giver know that their gift has been received. It can also be a spark which ignites increased generosity, something Robin and his wife know deep in their bones. “We feel passionately that giving is a great thing. By giving, we’re acknowledging that we are giving to God what is his in the first place and that we don’t need it all. The charity had a golden opportunity to reinforce the joy we felt and to enter into a relationship with us. Sadly, they didn’t do that, and while it didn’t affect our generosity, it did steal some of the joy from that particular gift.”
Robin feels that charities need to be careful about how they respond to donors. “Receiving money is a day-to-day thing for them which could mean that they’re in danger of losing their sense of wonder about it. Many gifts come with a story attached, as ours did. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with gift givers and to increase their joy, rather than snuffing it out.”
In his work for Home for Good, Robin is witness to regular and one-off gifts from its supporters, many of whom have generous narratives attached. “Last year, we received a charitable gift from a lady whose grandmother had recently died and left her some money. Before she found out how much the inheritance was, she prayerfully came up with an amount she wanted to give and three charities to which to give it, Home for Good being one of them. What a story. What generosity. We make sure that we acknowledge and thank every single donor straight away. Thankfulness and gratitude are an integral part of generosity and giving.”
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4)