Charity, or the way Jesus loves, is one of the sweetest things in life. When we have charity we are slow to anger and quick to think of others; we are kind, and we see the good in everyone around us. Charity turns bad days into good ones and good people into great ones.
When I talk about charity, I don't just mean giving money to the poor—although helping the poor can be a sign of charity. I'm referring to the kind of love Paul talks about in the Bible when he says charity (or love) suffers long and is kind, is not easily provoked, rejoices in the truth, hopes all things and never fails.
How do we become full of charity? While this is a life-long quest, there are 3 simple steps we can take (and then take again and again) to help us on our journey.
Taking a few minutes each morning to read and think about charity—or pure love—increases your openness to loving others. You'll find examples in all of the great books: from the Bible and the teachings of Buddha to great literature, poetry and music. Study the lives of Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Jesus and people living today who exemplify this kind of love. Think about what these great people mean to you and how you can live more like them.
As you read great writings individually or as a family, looking for examples of charity, and as you ponder the examples, feelings of peace and love will strengthen in your heart.
So, open God's word or look through the news for examples of charity. They are everywhere!
In connection with pondering about charity, ask God to fill you with His love for people in your life. Be specific. If there are people you are struggling to get along with, ask Him for help. He'll do it! He wants to bless you with charity. These prayers don't have to be formal on-your-knees petitions. You can pray silently when your coworker is rude to you, when your son tracks mud all over your newly cleaned floors or when your spouse forgets your anniversary, again. You can pray anywhere, anytime. If you need a few moments to really focus on the prayer, slip into those little prayer offices that are nearly everywhere (some people call them bathroom stalls) and pour out your heart to God. Tell Him you're working on loving the way He does, and ask for His love to help you through whatever it is you're facing. Listen as He gives you ideas of how to be loving, and then act on them.
Meditating and praying are wonderful, but pure love won't really grow until you get out into the real world and put the things you are learning into action. Happy and loving thoughts lead to happy and loving actions. You don't need to become perfect at charity all in one day. Chose something small you can do for someone specific today, and be on the lookout for surprise opportunities. Hold the door open for someone, say hello, smile at a stranger, compliment the woman beside you on the bus or strike up a friendly conversation.
Remember that sometimes the most important place to practice charity is also the hardest—in your own home. As you ponder, pray for and practice charity, pay particular attention to the people you love most. No success will have a bigger impact than the love you share at home. The sweetness of charity, being slow to anger and quick to think of others, will turn our homes into places where we feel the love of Jesus.