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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
Today, I’d like to talk with you about how sometimes children lead the way.
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I don’t suppose anyone here ever does this, but there is a game some people play that’s called Disqualification. Let me explain how it works.
People disqualify themselves because of who they are.
They consider themselves not old enough, not young enough, not smart enough, not wealthy enough, not something-or-other enough to give a gift.
Individuals can play this game Disqualification. It can also be played by teams. A congregation can function as a team, and many do. When that happens, then the congregation says, whether by word or action: We’re not big enough, or wealthy enough
or devout enough, or educated enough to give a gift, to make a difference in the world. So we’ll just wait until we are.
Disqualification is also the name of the game when a person or a group says:
What we have isn’t worthy to be called a gift.
It’s small and simple and poor and laughable.
It’s not enough.
They wouldn’t want it.
It’s pitifully small and slight compared to the needs of the world.
Yet another form of Disqualification happens when people question their own motives, and that keeps them from giving. If I have some connection with the recipient, if I feel some passion about what causes that person to need my gift, then I may have doubts about the supposed purity of my motive, and that may keep me from presenting my gift.
Now do you recognize this game Disqualification?
Have you seen individuals and groups play it, and keep themselves from giving gifts?
Have you perhaps played the game yourself, and kept your hand closed, and squelched your desire to take action?
Many of us have.
The game Disqualification is something we learn to play, or perhaps we don’t learn to play.
Recently I came across a newspaper story* about a St. Clair County resident who—thank God— has not learned to disqualify herself from giving.
Her name is Krystal Teichow, she’s ten years old, and she lives in Kimball Township.
Krystal makes herself useful to others in several ways.
She volunteers for the Humane Society and the American Cancer Society.
But above all, what seems to have put her in the spotlight was a very simple yet very generous action she decided upon. She took her collection of Beanie Babies, sold them, and donated the money to the Autistic Society of Michigan.
Krystal’s generous nature caused her acting coach Ernest Werth to nominate her for the Millennium Dreamer’s Awards.
She was one of 2,000 children around the world to win this honor.
She’s somebody who knows how to dream and act on her dreams.
Or, to put it differently, she refuses to play a game that’s far too popular among adults and children, the game called Disqualification.
She could have played the game, of course.
She could have said:
I’m not old enough, I’m not wealthy enough,
I’m not something-or-other enough, to make a difference.
And maybe none of us would have noticed had she done this.
She could have indulged in a quick game of Disqualification by deciding that what she had to offer wasn’t much of a gift.
Beanie Babies may have market value, but it’s not like turning over adult stuff like jewelry or stocks or cash or real estate.
When it comes to funding medical research, Beanie Babies are not the first thing that comes to mind, unless, of course, your name is Krystal Teichow.
Then, too, this young girl could have played Disqualification by questioning her own motives.
For you see, her interest in autism research is not the result of opening a medical dictionary at random.
It comes from living every day with her brother Joshua, who is autistic.
She knows about autism, and her experience has not led her to despair, but has kindled in her a passion, a readiness, to do what she can.
Disqualification is a game this girl refuses to play.
For that we can give thanks.
And maybe we can avoid playing the game ourselves.
Instead of Disqualification, we can give what we have to give, and leave the rest to God.
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Today’s a good day to recognize Krystal and her Beanie Babies, because today’s Gospel presents us with a young boy who gives what he can give: five barley loaves and a couple small fish. We don’t know the boy’s name, where he comes from, or who his parents are, but we know about his gift to hungry people. We know that, like Krystal, he refuses to play Disqualification.
Oh, he could do it differently.
He could decide he isn’t old enough or wealthy enough to make a difference.
After all, in the time and place where he lives, there are many ways in which children simply are not recognized.
Or he could conclude that his gift, a child-size lunch, doesn’t measure up as a gift.
He could buy into the apostle Andrew’s grumpy judgment: Five barley loaves and a couple fish— what are they among so many?
Or the boy could question his own motives as a giver.
Some of the people in the crowd are his relatives, his friends, his neighbors.
Maybe his desire to give is not completely disinterested.
He does not want to walk home with a hungry, cranky family
But—thanks be to God!— the boy wastes no time playing Disqualification.
He hands over his little lunch.
He gives the gift.
Then something happens.
Something that players of Disqualification never take into account.
The gift is mysteriously multiplied.
One little lunch becomes a catered meal for five thousand, a picnic in the wilderness.
The mystery factor is this:
When we give, we don’t give simply to a hungry crowd or to the Autistic Society of Michigan.
We give to God.
And, strange to say, our gift sets God free to do something, to burst forth in new, unexpected ways.
Beanie Babies cashed in to help medical research.
A little lunch given up to feed a crowd.
With God in on the act, who knows how far the ripple effect of such choices will reach?
Who knows how many times these stories will be told?
I have spoken to you in the name of the One who waits for people like that anonymous boy
and Krystal Teichow and you and me, in order that through our gifts he may reveal his mercy: the God we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
*Nathan Collins, “Kimball Township girl honored for giving time, money to charity,” Port Huron (Mich.)Times Herald, March 30, 2000.
Copyright 2000, The Rev. Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.