Gannon University students volunteered around Erie as a part of the university’s annual GIVE Day, as I’m sure you’ll hear so many times this week. It’s fantastic that so many Gannon students and faculty gave up their mornings to go serve and in a real way live out the gospel message of loving one’s brother and sister. But what has GIVE Day done really?
OK, so we planted beautiful trees in our community, we helped our brothers and sisters in our community and we experienced what it means to give. But GIVE Day exists within, at most, a 5-hour experience. It is temporary and if we’re honest with ourselves, it lacks the meaning to stay with us as anything but the free T-shirt that the Center for Social Concerns graciously gives out.
I’m not criticizing all the amazing actions done leading up to GIVE day or all the beautiful things done on the day of service at all but where was God on GIVE day? Because I certainly did not hear about him on our Christian, Catholic campus’ largest day of service in the history of this university. We, the Gannon community, did small acts with great love as the blessed mother Teresa reminds us to do and we can feel so good about doing that because it is, indeed, good.
But if our service is done simply for the free T-shirt or a club’s or organization’s obligations, then we have completely missed the message of GIVE day. God is love, there is nothing purer than the love the Almighty has for you personally.
Imagine if we, the Gannon community, could have taken his name out to Erie – even if just on our T-shirts. I’ll tell you what would have happened: our small acts with great love would have been set on fire and magnified to even greater heights.
We cannot forget about the most crucial and fundamental part of our campus identity. We are a Catholic University rooted in the gospel message of Jesus Christ, we derive the names of our buildings from great men and women of faith who loved Gannon and we live out the universal church with our international citizenship.
Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” I think that is very applicable as we reflect on GIVE day and all the great actions done.
There is no question that Gannon has every right to be proud of the things we did. We went into impoverished neighborhoods, we cleaned up Presque Isle, we made a positive ecological impact on the community and we did it all in the rain. When push came to shove and the weather got nastier than any of us truly wanted it to get, we still showed up. And we have every right to wear our GIVE day T-shirts with pride.
But when I think about all these great things that we did, I keep going back to Matthew 18:20, a verse I heard too many times growing up, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” We gathered, we worked and we made an impact. But we forget to gather in his name, and our impact was finite.
We cannot forget about the most crucial and fundamental part of our campus identity. Without him, GIVE day is temporary, with him GIVE day is life-giving and sustaining. Mother Teresa once said, “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?’”
Let us take the spirit of GIVE day into our daily lives, serving but always remembering God in our works.