Husband & Wife Articles


The Vital ‘Force’ of Gift-Giving

Small acts of charity can have everlasting effects

Christopher Menzhuber

During the filming of Return of the Jedi (1983), the child actor Warwick Davis was so excited to be playing an Ewok that his infectious enthusiasm helped rejuvenate the principal actors who already had filmed the previous two Star Wars movies. Grateful for Davis’s sense of joy, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) asked the young actor what Star Wars toys he wanted. The youngster produced a two-page list of items. Hamill returned with a box containing everything on the list. The young actor would long remember the act of kindness.

Christopher Menzhuber and his wife, Calista, have two young children.

While it was probably not much of a sacrifice for a famous actor to gather the toys and deliver them to a child, when I heard the story I was impressed with Hamill’s thoughtfulness and effort, which went beyond the ordinary. For me, it illustrates that there is a priceless, enduring quality to gift-giving. Most of us will never be lead actors in a box office hit, but the same principle that governed Hamill’s exchange with Davis can work into each of our own leading roles in life. There are probably things that are easy for us to do, or to give, that we might not consider as having extraordinary value at first. Yet when we share things such as our time or talents, or exercise hospitality, we can make an immense difference in the life of another – beginning with our spouse and children.

For example, my family lives within driving distance to the airport in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. On several occasions, we’ve been able to share our humble home with family or friends who live out of state. It doesn’t require any extraordinary amount of time for us to get to and from the terminals, or to turn our couch into a bed. What seem like such little offerings on our part are so greatly appreciated by guests who are able to avoid the inconvenient, tiring, and possibly dangerous early-morning or late-night drive to the airport.

God has made us all stewards, blessing us with many unique circumstances and qualities. When we consider such circumstances and qualities as the tools of stewardship, suddenly our time, treasure and talent become more gratefully given to others. Perhaps by beginning to fix in our minds a simple statement – that something we esteem as insignificant might mean much more to someone else – we can more easily find new ways of sharing in charitable love. We are ultimately called to give not from our abundance but from our poverty like the widow in the Gospel (cf. Mark 12:41-44). It is easy to observe the destructive force of an evil act as it ripples through our communities. Imagine how much more our gifts of stewardship could change and sustain the world.

True, we might never learn in this life the effects of our gift-giving. But, as Pope Francis observed in Evangelli Gaudium: “No single act of love for God will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force” (279). He added that our good works aren’t forgotten, but help us to “keep marching forward” and to give God our all so he can “make our efforts bear fruit in his good time” (279).