The Way of Generous Love

by Gerard Stolk

I got up early for the Royal Wedding this morning. There were a ton of living room lights shining in our building, so I wasn’t alone with my high tea and shortbread. Michael eventually joined me, and we watched the BBC broadcast of the event, which was impressively produced (and, as an American, embarassingly intelligent).

Two moments really stood out to me (besides the aisle walk, the gown, the two kisses, all that). The first was the BBC’s interview two days ago with the Archbishop of Canterbury, which they replayed before the wedding this morning.

He gave a special welcome to the billions of people who might be watching the ceremony today. He called them to be more than spectators – to be people who would affirm the couple’s vows and encourage them to have a healthy marriage. Then he encouraged all people viewing to look introspectively at how we might reaffirm in our own lives the meaning behind the couple’s vows.

Strange suggestion, really. A lot of people watching were single women who grew up thinking about marrying William. How in the world does this affect them, besides giving them a reason to drink too much or cry at their office desks this afternoon?

Then, during the wedding, the Bishop of London spoke to the couple about their vows. He described marriage as a time when we give ourselves wholly to another person in order to make them better. He called it “the way of generous love.”

Princess Diana with Mother Teresa

As British journalists meandered through the crowd, a number of people mentioned William’s mother, Princess Diana. Diana’s legacy was one of giving and extreme concern for other people – particularly for victims of AIDS and leprosy, people who struggle with addiction, vulnerable children and the elderly, and men and women who are homeless.

Her death caused an outcry and even some heroine-worship, not just because she was classy or beautiful, but because of her reputation for compassion.

So it probably shouldn’t be such a surprise that her child William wrote a prayer with his future wife asking God for generosity and love for others. It shouldn’t be a surprise that thousands, if not millions, of people watched primarily because of their love for Diana and their desire to see such a generous person leave an additional legacy through her children.

Generosity is beautiful. It draws people in. And the call to it by the Bishop of London was a call we can take seriously in our own lives, as the Archbishop suggested – whether married or single, rich or poor.

Sadly the most generous people often go unnoticed and are never given grand celebrations. But the content of this wedding was a lovely reminder of the classiness of compassion and the legacy it can create when we follow the way of generous love in our families, work lives, budgeting, and margin time.

If you watched the Royal Wedding today, consider joining with the couple’s prayer for generosity as the tag-on to your theme party. The couple asked people to give their wedding gifts to charities, and we can do just that by giving our attention now to things beyond us, and beyond the royal couple.

Here are a few things I’m hoping to do before the day is out, and perhaps you’ll join me:

Support the victims of the recent storms in the South through one of these organizations (UPDATE 02/24/13 – link no longer active).

Practice hospitality, and learn how from Tunisia.

Continue to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan through local Japanese charity groups.

(Oh, I should mention that the royal couple did set up a charity fund for wedding gifts. Because many of the charities are British, and we have a massive need in the US right now, I decided to go my own route. I really don’t think they care.)

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