Mark Tang

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa.

Three things asked of us during Lent are praying, fasting, and almsgiving.

Growing up, I always thought almsgiving was the odd one out. It seemed like our parents’ responsibility; we were just the middlemen dropping money into the collection bag at church. It seemed like the simplest task to complete; the other two took up a bit more time and effort.

One Sunday during Lent, as a child, I recalled Jesus saying, that when we give, the left hand must not know what the right hand is doing. So as offertory drew near, my right hand started to carefully extract just one coin from my pocket, while my brain and my left hand did their best to ignore.

My parents saw my struggle and was thoroughly amused at their son’s naivety when I explained myself.

In 2014, I was overseas for work and I needed to withdraw cash from an ATM before dinner. A lady wrapped up in a thin blanket with her child sat at the side and asked me for money just as I withdrew it. As I obeyed my brain and walked away, what she said is still etched in my mind till today. “We are human too!” she exclaimed.

That incident changed me. As a young adult today, I realise that the brain and the left hand always interferes with giving. Either the brain is casting doubt and causes inaction, or the left hand empties the pocket first.

In a similar incident back home in Singapore recently, I was withdrawing cash in my neighbourhood to buy food back for the family when a woman asked me for money. This time I asked her whether she had lunch and I said, “Wait for me, I will go get you a pack of chicken rice.” As I handed her the packet of food, the puzzled look on her face told me that no one had ever done that for her. But as she started to share her situation with me, I quickly excused myself thinking I did my part.

Almsgiving is actually the most difficult task of the three because we are called to give without being calculative, and to give more than just money. Perhaps we can give more of what is most precious to us this Lent – our time.

Don’t let our minds and left hands guide our giving. Instead, let Jesus guide our hearts this Lent.

Mark is the Caritas Singapore Young Adults Committee Chair.