Do you give to get? Or do you give to give?
I know of a small town mayor (I’ll call him John) who is Mr. Community where he lives. Every time there is a hand-shaking or baby-kissing event in his community, John is the first to arrive. Because he usually coordinates such events.
John’s day-job puts him in the spotlight. Through the bank where he serves as a vice president, John hosts family movie nights, hands out free popcorn and hot dogs, and makes all in attendance feel warm and special. He sits on many prominent Boards, and he views every outing as an opportunity to gather more followers.
John dresses in an immaculate fashion. Business suits, subdued silk ties, white crisp shirts with collar stays, and wing-tipped shoes. He poses in front of the mirror until he is sure that his hair could pass Ken (of Ken and Barbie fame) standards.
In addition to being popular in the community, John is a man’s man. On weekends, he can be found golfing at his country club, sailing on Lake Michigan, or attending professional sporting events in the city with his pals.
When he can, John takes his daughters to church on Sunday morning, where he sits on the Board and serves as a deacon. His daughters, of course, are daintily groomed with their hair pulled up, their dresses feminine and age-appropriate.
In short, Mr. Community has it all. Chiseled looks, money, status, talent, a power job, perfect daughters, a big home, and a trophy wife. Nearly anyone who passes John on the street would gladly switch places with him.
“Dawn”, John’s trophy wife, is not a public person. She prefers to stay in the shadows. This causes frustration for John. What good is a trophy wife if the trophy hides in a box?
While not drawn to crowds and public relations events, Dawn does enjoy helping others. Dawn once spent her own time and money getting the family of a work acquaintance out of an area that was expecting a destructive hurricane.
She can’t pass a homeless person without opening her heart and her wallet. When she rode the train to work, she would often find herself buying tickets for women with children who claimed they were stranded and needed money for the trip back home in Chicago.
And Dawn spent much of her Summer visiting a shut-in neighbor, bringing the elderly woman food, straightening her home, caring for her sick dog.
John or Dawn: Which are you?
John invests in public displays, joins high-visibility groups, sits on high-profile boards. John receives praise throughout each day while he spreads broad smiles and exudes charisma. John walks through life enriching his own PR, extending his own considerable power over the people he passes.
Dawn sits in the shadows, helping one or two people at a time. Instead of craving the spotlight for her efforts, she asks to remain anonymous. Her reward comes from the silent tears of gratitude she receives from those whose lives she’s touched. Much of what Dawn does extends goodwill that society relies upon to lift up the weakest members.
It’s impossible to know what goes on in the lives of others. There are two sides to every story, and things are not always what they appear. None but God can know or judge motives. But from my very limited perspective, Dawn represents what’s going well in society.
The Dawns of this world seek to give, to pay forward, to share with others. Dawns don’t enter into situations asking “What is this going to cost me?” or “What am I going to get for doing this?” Instead, Dawns live the Golden Rule, striving to help–in a quiet way–those in need.
Which would you rather have as a neighbor? And what kind of neighbor are you?