Back in the day, people had great fun surreptitiously sticking plastic pink flamingos in other people’s yards at night. In the morning, their friend or neighbor would be surprised to find a flamingo’s gawky likeness gracing their front lawn for all the world to see.
What made it so much fun? Well, it was the neighbor or friend’s surprise and the not-knowing of the “who” who planted it there. Once the prankster was made known, the humor was either elevated (“I would never have guessed it was YOU!”) or lessened just a bit if the prankster had been suspected all along. And if no one ever figured out who did it, it was all the more memorable.
A silly, harmless antic by an unknown jokester could put a smile on a face and keep it there for a while. Anonymous acts (when doing no harm) are an enticing way of impacting another’s life. Some might say that our God who often likes to remain hidden has created life so that our lives have a little more zest and zing as a result.
God works in mysterious ways, to be sure. Anonymity is one of them. It might even be said that people of faith are to do some if not a lot of their work anonymously. Especially when it comes to giving to those in need. Jesus once said,
"But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:3-4, NASB)
There are good reasons for giving secretly.
Those who have never been poor may have a hard time understanding how humiliating it is to be given something from a person better off they are and having to see them face-to-face. The disparity is there in the flaming cheeks of the recipient’s shame. As well meaning as the giver may have been, the one on the receiving end of his/her largesse knows something the giver did not. When you’re poor, you almost always know that everyone is better than you.
A gift directly from the hands of someone or with the giver’s name on the tag/card, sends an often-unintended message, “You are beneath me,” or “I feel sorry for you.” Neither message is flattering.
There is a website, Spirituality and Practice, that sends weekly quotes and actions to those that wish them. Recently, this offering came to my inbox:
“Even religious practices can have mixed motivation as is clear in many of the sayings of Jesus that address the human tendency to look for congratulations for our good behavior and generous religious observances such as fasting or giving alms. Obviously, these are good deeds and we shouldn't stop doing them, but we shouldn't do them for the motive of obtaining approval and esteem.”
— Thomas Keating in Divine Therapy & Addiction
To Practice This Thought:
Choose an act of kindness today that you can do invisibly, without receiving credit. Pick up and throw away litter without telling anyone, for instance, or send a gift certificate anonymously to someone you know who would not suspect that you were the source of this gift.
Just a little act of anonymous kindness and generosity can be a monumental gift to someone else. It’ll be your little secret. Between you and God.