FINDING THE GIVER’S HIGH


Ms. Valdon was a successful businesswoman who loved the Lord and loved giving. There was always a good feeling associated with giving. However, of late, she was beginning to get upset with her pastor because she felt that the young man was always talking about money. Since she appeared to be the richest woman in the flock, he inadvertently was always focusing on her. The pastor’s favourite scriptures were Malachi 3: 8-9 and Ecclesiastes 11:1 and with the way the church was making demands on her, she would fail in her quest to make the Forbes’ List of successful women entrepreneurs in Africa before the end of the decade. Getting rich was the only way she could prove to her natural family that they had made the biggest mistake of their lives when they so heinously rejected her.

“We need some balance out there,” she would moan, usually after she returned home from many Sunday services. She believed that the church was always devising strategies to empty her purse on fellowship and other meeting days, especially during Sunday services. If it was not Thanksgiving offering, it was welfare offering or the building project, and so on. So, Ms. Valdon decided to be frugal about how she gave into the “scheming demands” of her church. She was no longer going to be persuaded to sow “reckless” seed faith.

“Henceforth, I shall be scientific and rational. No longer shall I be persuaded to sow a seed-faith in response to any pastor’s sweet tongue,” Ms. Valdon vowed.

However, as soon as Ms. Valdon’s seeds stopped, certain things began to creep out from their dark dungeons. For starters, her bottled water business which was the number one brand in the country gradually began to decline in popularity in the marketplace. Secondly, part of the funds she “saved” in a special account from seeding in the church was used to replace five malfunctioning water processing filters and rebuilding a collapsed wall of her water purifying plant. Then malaria, typhoid fever, and hypertension, three long-forgotten nouns, decided to pay her simultaneous visits, leaving in their gruesome trail, expenses and lost time that she would have better spent on productive pursuits.

Ms. Valdon was upset with God. It appeared that the Lord had so quickly resorted to punishing her because she had stopped giving to her church. Why was God so hard on her? Was she the only person He saw in that church? What of all the unbelievers who gave nothing to the work of the Lord but prospered? Later on, in a bid to deny any nexus between her recent misfortunes and her refusal to sow seeds, Ms. Valdon sought scientific explanations to justify what had happened to her. The water filters were barely a year old, but it was very probable that the merchants in Lagos had sold fake and substandard products to her during her last purchase. The portion of the wall of her factory that collapsed had shown earlier signs of crack and the winds were unusually high at the onset of this rainy season. It was also likely that some fraudsters and her competitors had infiltrated the market with fake versions of her brand which resulted in customer disloyalty and switch to other brands.

But she could find no explanation for her deteriorating health, so she decided to pay a visit to her foster father, a selfless elderly missionary doctor who had been her greatest benefactor in life. She had been born forty-three years ago in a little rainforest village in southern Nigeria. Her family was part of a brutish clan steeped in the occult and witchcraft practices. Her paternal uncle who was a notorious native-doctor had sexually defiled her when she was just thirteen and thereafter accused her of being a child witch. The village had tortured and disowned her. The elderly doctor had picked her up as an urchin in the streets of a neighbouring village and handed her over to an orphanage for, while still financially supporting her educational pursuits. She bore his name.

***

In the consulting room of the large teaching hospital, Ms. Valdon sat opposite Dr. Vincent, with a huge mahogany table separating her from his kind regard. He belonged to that generation of Orthodox Christians that did not speak in tongues but lived a near seemingly unblemished life.

“Dad, I can’t remember the last time I found a mosquito in my house, and I drink safe water. So why did I break down with malaria and typhoid last week? My blood test result shocked me.”

“My daughter, we’re in endemic regions of the diseases, and a single mosquito bite outside your home is enough to give you malaria if the biting mosquito is already infected with the parasite,” he explained.

“Okay, I was almost worried that it had a spiritual dimension …” she stuttered off.

“When last did you treat malaria?” he asked her pointedly.

“Don’t you remember, Dad, it was like five years ago. I’ve somewhat enjoyed divine health,” she replied thoughtfully. It was then she remembered that five years ago was when she started taking communion in her church. Her countenance fell.

“You appear troubled and unhappy, my daughter,” the doctor remarked, “try doing something that makes you happy as it would bring down your blood pressure.”

“Like what?” Ms. Valdon snapped.

“If my memory doesn’t fail me, I know you have a strong sense of justice. You like to stand up for the weak. I am aware that giving and serving others lifts the giver’s happiness more than spending it on themselves. Try to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks. When people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a ‘warm glow’ effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as ‘the helper’s high.’ A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly.”

“Yeah, Dad. I used to have that good feeling when I gave but it’s all gone. The helper’s high is gone. I wish I could buy it off the shelf like a pill,” Ms. Valdon retorted, pain contorting her face.

“Oh yes, researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. People who provided social support to others have lower blood pressure than people who don’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.”

Ms. Valdon wearily exhaled, in somewhat kind of gay defeat, asked:

“Dad, let me confide in you.”

“Yes Clara, I’m under oath not to disclose confidential information,” the doctor chuckled.

“I’m mad at my church because I feel that all my pastor does is to ask for money every service and I don’t see what the church does with all the money they collect. The demands of the church have even made me apprehensive about attending services. I feel I’ll be compelled to make pledges that are not convenient to me. But with what you’ve said, I’m beginning to have a rethink,” she confessed.

“Are you saying that you don’t feel good when you give to your church?” the doctor curiously asked.

“I used to feel good before but not anymore … beyond that, I have bills to pick up everywhere. Remember that I send like a thousand dollars to the orphanage that housed me when you found me.”

“Daughter, do you feel bad about giving to the orphanage too?” he asked her, as he pulled out his spectacles to regard her.

“Not at all, Dad! I owe them that and I would still give them even if they had not taken me in,” she replied.

“Tell me more about your church and its administrative structure. Who is your pastor? Is he one of the high-profile pastors we see on television? Has he ever been linked to any scandal? Does he manage the church money? Is he on a salary? Do you know whether the church’s accounts are audited? Do you know how much comes into the church every month? Are you a member of the church’s board?” Dr. Valdon curiously asked.

She stared blankly at him, on the verge of embarrassment, for the torrents of probing questions seemed to have caught her unawares, but a few seconds later, she found her voice.

“We’re are a little over a thousand worshippers, but I can’t tell how much we receive a month,” she finally blurted.

“Mmmm … your attitude when giving counts. Where you give grudgingly, you will lose the helper’s high and profit little from your giving. Anger weakens the body’s immune system and makes you susceptible to illness. What I advise is that you should give based on the conviction that you’re doing the right thing,” the doctor replied.

“Okay, Dad, I will henceforth give based on my convictions,” she reiterated, as she vigorously nodded her head in concurrence.

The elderly doctor smiled. He seemed to appreciate his patient’s emotions deeply. “Come with me. I want to show you an interesting place in this hospital,” he briskly offered. Rising from his swivelling padded armchair, he led her out of the consulting room, towards a hallway. In less than five minutes of winding through a maze of staircases, corridors, the duo stood before the door of a large hall that looked and smelt like a laboratory.

“This is our hospital’s medical museum,” he told her as he led her through the large hall with its vast array of freaky specimens that seemed to belong in some haunted manor. She was appalled with the grotesque displays of oversized parasites, diseased human organs preserved in formaldehyde and historical accounts of outrageous medical practices and discoveries. The doctor stopped by a glass cabinet housing a human forearm severed from the elbow joint and preserved in formaldehyde.

“This arm belonged to a man who survived cancer. We had to amputate it to protect the rest of his body from the ravaging disease. He’s still alive. After surviving cancer, he gave up his thriving import business to become a missionary in Rwanda,” he casually informed her.

He then led her to another glass cabinet that contained a human brain. Ms. Valdon had never seen a real human brain, and she recoiled from the glass showcase as if it held a live cobra.

“He didn’t make it,” the elderly doctor explained, “look at that red patch of the bulge in the front lobe of the brain; it’s a tumour. By the time he was brought here, it was already too late. There was not much we could do to save him again,” the doctor explained.

“Why is he still here? Why was he not buried?” she squeaked.

“He was buried, but he requested that his brain should be donated for medical research of brain tumours,” the doctor grimly replied, as he abruptly led Ms. Valdon to yet another glass showcase which housed a heart.

“This patient died of hypertensive heart disease. Notice that the condition enlarges the atria and ventricles which are the upper and lower chambers …” the doctor began to explain.

“Dad, I want to go home,” she whined, “I’ve seen enough …”

The elderly doctor nodded in empathy as he led the distraught younger woman out of the hospital to the car park. Just before she opened the door of her car, she whispered tearfully:

“Dad, what was the point of taking me in there? Are you trying to tell me that I’m ungrateful?”

“Life and health are the biggest gifts from God, yet they are often the most overlooked and unappreciated gift. By the time, you see sick folks like I do every day, the least thing you will worry about is how your church is spending its tithes and offerings,” he replied.

“Are you implying that there should not be any accountability in church?” she asked.

“No, I never said so. But I understand where you’re coming, because, like I said earlier, I know you have a strong sense of justice. Clara, as a doctor, I’ve watched patients die, and I can emphatically tell you that the three things that dying people regularly regret not having done in their lifetime are; having a healthy relationship with God and their loved ones, and their failure or negligence to give back to the society during their lives. Many dying people always wished that they could have done more for God, their families, and humanity. Don’t allow an opportunity to bless your church bring you grief.”

“Frankly, I’m not ungrateful …” she replied as she wiped away a tear from her eye. “But for you, I may have been dead by now or I may have gone into prostitution on the perilous streets by now. You picked me up when everyone in my family abandoned me … and can I forget how you gave me the start-up capital to start this business that has so flourished and made me a millionaire.”

“Clara, can I confide in you too?” the elderly doctor smiled at his foster-daughter.

“Yes, Dad.”

“That start-up capital I gave you seven years ago was never from my pocket. The man whose cancer-ridden arm you saw in the museum was the one that provided the capital. I shared Christ with him when he was diagnosed with the disease and he was utterly hopeless. When he became a Christian, he sought to bless me and I told him about you and how you dreamed of owning a bottled water business. He gave me that huge capital which I handed over to you to start the business,” the elderly doctor informed his foster-daughter.

“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed in more tears, “That was so kind of him. I feel so indebted and ashamed that I’ve not expressed my gratitude. How can I reach him?”

“It’s not your fault. He never handed the money to you. He has never met you. All I care about is your health. I want you to meet a nice man and start a family. If giving to your church evokes anger and bitterness, then leave the church to another place of worship where you can earn the giver’s high,” the elderly doctor advised.

***

The visit to the medical museum and her foster-father had so sobered Ms. Valdon that she decided to remain in her church. She would trust God to take care of His church and ensure that its leaders did the right thing with the resources the church was blessed with. So, she continued to give without murmuring, but the giver’s high was yet to return; well, not until nine months later.

Her church organised a revival programme that invited several guest ministers from within and outside the country. Of note, was a guest minister with a prosthetic arm who was introduced as a missionary in the fields of the African Great Lakes Region. The missionary thanked the church for supporting his missionary work in that region of the African continent that had witnessed wars, ethnic conflicts, and refugee crisis. He told of how cancer originated in his left arm due to his chronic smoking and how his left arm had to be amputated to save his life. He told of how he had found Jesus after his health ordeal and how he had decided to quit his business to serve Jesus on a full-time basis. The congregation erupted in cheers when the missionary finally announced that he was the biological father of their resident pastor.

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