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Giving From Your Heart

By Robert Orton

Today’s Old Testament reading from Exodus chronicles the time the Jews turned away from God, cast a golden calf, and made sacrifices to it. Moses had to advocate for the people of God to prevent a catastrophic calamity. I identify with the people who became confused by the bright shiny object in the absence of Moses. My own shiny object was science, and it dazzled me for most of my life.

I grew up a liberal in the very conservative West Texas town of Odessa. I attended St John’s Episcopal Church up until the age of 13, when I felt I was too grown up for such religious nonsense and mom stopped forcing me to go. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my father and I heard about a horrible accident along the interstate highway. The evening news indicated that there was an urgent need for blood donations. Dad got up from the dinner table, grabbed me by the arm, and said, “We are going to the hospital to donate”. It made me feel better. And I liked the anonymity - knowing that I would be helping someone in need without the recipient ever knowing my identity.

I continued to donate blood and became friends with members of the Red Cross. Through this connection, I learned CPR and began teaching water safety to future lifeguards. These skills led to lifeguard jobs at various county pools: teaching children to swim in the morning and lifeguarding all afternoon, occasionally teaching CPR or Lifeguard classes in the evening. Once, I had to perform mouth-to-mouth to restore breathing in a child at the pool. I think back on this moment and thank God that I was calm and prepared. It was at this moment that I experienced the true Grace of God.

Much later, when my wife Martha was nearing the end of a decade-long struggle with lupus, my attention was focused on her needs. Once again, I turned away from God. When she passed away, I felt God’s mercy as my suffering ended. I later realized that my call to be a blessing is to give of myself. To give from the heart - because it adds purpose and meaning to life. I still donate blood whenever I am able. So much for anonymity.

I encourage everyone to give of their time, join a committee, donate money, and donate blood if they are able. The benefits of giving of oneself can be a religious experience all its own. Be a blessing to someone else.

Robert began attending Ascension in 2012. He has served on the Stewardship Committee and is currently supporting the Food Pantry, Sandbranch water drive, and helps Austin Street Shelter by cooking lasagnas. He was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 2020.

Robert's reflection is based on Sunday, the 15th's Old Testament reading, Exodus 32:1-14.

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