By Andrew Gale, Executive Director of Global Strategy

In a recent conversation about giving with Tim and Kim Wardell, who serve Pass Creek Church in Allen, South Dakota, we were processing how often giving is more reflective of the needs of the giver than the needs of the receiver. That’s hard to think about when our giving is part of an emotional response. Tim shared this story with me:

A few years ago, my daughter Megan was having a rough week. Working three jobs, she was overwhelmed and struggling. I wanted her to know I was thinking about her, so I decided to buy her flowers and take them to where she works. I was pretty proud of myself. When I told Kim about my plan, she gave me one of those looks that instantly caused me to question my decision.

“What’s wrong with flowers?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Kim responded, “but are you giving flowers to Megan because she likes flowers or because that’s what makes you feel good to give her?”

My blood pressure was rising, and I quickly retorted, “I am giving them because I want her to feel loved.”

“Giving is about knowing someone. We give out of our knowledge of a person. That’s how they feel seen. You know Megan, what gift would actually help her feel known?”

I thought about it for a second. “She really likes Dr. Pepper and Rolos. And dill pickle flavored sunflower seeds.” Kim laughed. “Yes, she does.”

Once I had cooled off a bit, I decided to take Kim’s advice. At the store, I bought Dr. Pepper, Rolos, and sunflower seeds. I stopped by Megan’s work, but the person at the front desk said she was busy. I said, “Just let her know that Tim dropped these off.”

I don’t know whether Megan felt more loved because I brought her those things, but I hope that my desire to encourage her was evident, shaped by the knowledge of who she is and what she would appreciate. Whenever we give, we need to ask ourselves: Am I giving for myself or am I giving out of the knowledge of the person I am giving to?

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