Inspiring Generosity



I’ve been weepy this week. I’m still sad that Some Good News finished its eight-week run. I’m bummed that we finished the Netflix series “Never Have I Ever” (I’m still sobbing). More seriously, the New York Times listed the names of 1,000 COVID-19 victims on Sunday’s front page. And, my pastor is retiring in less than a month. So yeah, there’s a lot to get choked up about.
I’m also sad because yesterday, my husband and I decided – for now – to retire “the sign.”
“The sign” has been part of our daily ritual for about 60 days. Around the first of April, we started putting out a white board in front of our house. Everything at that time was so disorienting that the board announced at the very top what day it was, “It’s Tuesday!” “It’s Saturday!” We also wanted to give a sense of time for “how long we’ve been in this together.” We chose March 15 to start; the day UMC churches in the area stopped in-person worship. We hash tagged the number of days at the bottom of the sign.

In the middle we always tried to have some kind of goofy and/or uplifting message.

We are family. (complete with musical notes and a shout out to Sister Sledge)
Be Happy Hour – 9am-9pm.
Do the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary.
Thank you – folks who pick up our trash, recycling, yard waste – y’all are awesome!

We have a lot of walkers who come by our house and my desk overlooks the sidewalk and the park’s walking path across the street. As the days wore on, the most amazing thing started to happen. I’d notice people standing in front of the sign reading it – really reading it. People whipping by on their bikes, turning their heads to see the message of the day. Cars pulling over to read our decidedly poor handwriting. Folks taking a photo.

We’d be sitting on the front porch and someone would stroll by shouting out their thanks for the sign. Someone even dropped off an anonymous note: “Your kind words are rays of sunshine to us all during this dark time…Keep spreading the joy!”

Most poignant was a Sunday conversation I had with a stranger. She walked by with her French bulldog and read: “Imagine…riding a Ferris wheel, licking an ice cream cone, hopping like a kangaroo.” She laughed at the words and then proceeded to tell me – from the sidewalk to my front porch – that she was not doing well with the pandemic. She was a teacher who missed the interaction with her students. And then she started to cry. She kept saying “I can’t believe I’m crying to a stranger!” And I kept saying, “There’s no shame. It’s understandable.” As she was walking away, I asked her if it was OK if my Tuesday night church book group could pray for her – and she replied “Oh yes, please do.”

That was the day that I realized that this sign – which had originally been done just for fun – had become a small ministry…our Stay-in-Place ministry.

So many of you have figured out your “Ministry-in-Place” during this weird and painful time. You have:

-  Made masks for friends and first   responders
-  Read stories to children via Zoom
-  Written notes of care to the isolated
-  Posted gorgeous photos of flowers and sunsets and sunrises
-  Gotten to know neighbors
-  Become one-person cookie brigades
-  Delivered beautiful songs through the miracle of the internet
You have discovered your Ministry-in-Place.

And that’s what generosity can do for us. It can help us be open to the Spirit to find or discover our gifts – even the ones we didn’t know existed. Generosity is not just about money (though please be sure to send in your offering to your church) but it’s also about the generosity of your time and your talent. Lord knows, we have a lot of time on our hands. And Lord knows, you have talent to spare.
Since our area is in Phase 1 of reopening and the heaviness of the long-extended days seems to be lifting a bit, we decided that it was time to retire the sign…for a little while. A goofy white board with colored markers helped my husband and I find our short-term ministry. I pray that you are finding yours during this time too. If there’s no sunshine, you be the sunshine.
P.S. Let me know what ministry-in-place you discovered for yourself in these last few months. I’d love to hear about it.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is glad to know that the Adventures of Olive and Mabel continue. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.


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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.