The Gift of a Free Lunch

A Bite by Sebastian Danon (

A Bite by Sebastian Danon (

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Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:16-17 NAB)

Mariana, my friend from exercise class, told me she was bringing a meal to a woman who couldn’t pay rent or buy groceries because someone had stolen her identity. I commended Mariana for her generosity.

Yes, we all need affirmation. We thrive on it. But why the need to tell our good intentions? What happened to not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

I was dressing in the almost empty locker room when a woman I barely knew turned to me with the question, “Why do we feel we have to praise people for being good?” Apparently, I wasn’t the only one Mariana told about her good deed. The questioning woman now looked intently at me, waiting for an answer.

“Most of us need to know we are doing something good,” I said, thinking of my need for affirmation and how I sometimes seek it through generosity. “And isn’t that the way we teach our children – by praising them for doing good things?”

It starts with a gift

Then she told me how she grabbed a teaching opportunity with her young granddaughter. One day at lunch in a restaurant the waitress told her and her granddaughter that an anonymous person paid for their meal. The granddaughter was curious. Who was it? Since the generous person was gone, it was a mystery.

But why? Why give strangers a free lunch? The child was puzzled.

Her grandmother encouraged her to enjoy the gift of a free lunch, given from the generosity of some unknown person.

Then the grandmother told the girl to look around the restaurant. “Who shall we treat to lunch?” she asked.

Delighted, the girl carefully considered who she would honor with the gift of a free lunch. She was intrigued with two men who looked like they could use some cheering up. “Them!” she exclaimed as she pointed to two frowning men. “Let’s pay for their lunch!”

The girl hurriedly finished her lunch so they could pay. She enjoyed the exhilaration of secret giving.

What if?

The locker room conversation continued with my question to my new confidant, “But what if later you find out that the recipients rejected your gift or suspected wrong motives and criticized you?”

She responded, “It goes to motivation. Are you giving from yourself or passing on some of the resources from the Giver of all gifts?”

“You mean, in His name?” I acknowledged.

“Yeah, and so they would not be rejecting me, but my gift and rejecting the generosity of the Giver,” she continued. “I’ve done this many times, and no one had reacted with anything but surprise and pleasure.”

Her granddaughter enjoyed the game immensely. The waitresses involved got a lift from sharing in the secret and delivering the joyful message to the beneficiaries, who enjoyed a free lunch.

What opportunities does God present to you to pay forward the blessings he gives you?

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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