Leslie (right) with his Ave Maria Choir bandmates from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Leslie Danker, a bass guitarist with the Ave Maria Choir at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, relates how he was taught to be generous and how he chooses to give today.
My mother took a ten dollar note from her purse and dropped it into the collection bag when it came round to us during Mass. I remember feeling bitter about this. Only shortly before, she had gently but firmly refused to buy me a yo-yo in spite of my pleading.
As a 6-year-old child, I could not wrap my head around this. My understanding was limited to “money is used to buy things that you want.” Why would my mother choose to drop money in this bag when she did not receive anything in return? I looked around, and as if following my mother’s example, other people stretched out their arms and quietly placed money into this bag.
I could not comprehend what was unfolding before my eyes. She could have used that money to buy me the yo-yo I wanted. Sitting in the church pew and feeling increasingly confused, I had to ask.
She smiled and replied, “I am not paying for nothing, Leslie. This money is for the Church.”
This is one of my earliest memories. I treasure it because, in retrospect, it was then that I was introduced to giving. Subsequently, my parents began handing me money to drop into the collection bag. At a young age, imitating the grown-ups this way was just something fun to do.
Looking back on this now, I realise this was their attempt at instilling a sense of giving in me. It worked. I began to look forward to receiving money from them just so that I could give it to the Church and feel like I was part of this community. Still, it was not until much later that I began to fully understand what I was doing and why this was needed.
There are costs involved in the operations of a parish that I had never noticed as a kid. Besides the more obvious things like planning and organising various events, it dawned on me that there are also expenses that are less apparent, covering the work of many ministries and the day-to-day running of the parish such as maintenance, repairs, and utilities.
Like many Singaporeans, I began to worry more and more about finances when I started work. I would not say I live extravagantly, but money seemed to always be tight. Though it was developed at a young age, my desire to contribute to my parish was slowly tested. So many other great causes needed help too.
It was also at this time that my eyes were opened to the needs of the archdiocese. The launch of the GIFT campaign a few years ago made me aware of the building projects of the Church, and all the important work that various Church organisations have done, and are continuing to do.
I have to admit that there were times when I, not having much money with me, was caught off-guard by an unexpected second collection. Unsure if I had enough for myself, I would hesitate and do a quick mental calculation. I gave grudgingly and sometimes wondered what I could have bought for myself instead.
One day, a lady who was sitting next to me at Mass handed her son some money before offertory, just like what my mother used to do. The boy skipped past me to drop it in the collection bag, and I noticed a wide grin on his face as he did so. I was brought back to a simpler time when giving was a pure and joyful experience.
Then it hit me: giving should be a celebration of what God has blessed us with, and not an obligation. My reluctance brought about negativity that simply did not belong.
A conscious effort
I have decided to set aside some money each month for the sole purpose of giving. It occurred to me that since I had already done this for other aspects of my life – savings, bills, groceries and so on – why should giving be any different?
After I started doing this, not only did I feel more ready to give, but I also gave joyfully. Many people say that giving is better than receiving, and I find this to be very true. Giving cheerfully is always an amazing experience.
I feel that every Catholic wants to be good, generous, and kind. Those less fortunate than ourselves will constantly need our help, and as a Catholic, I believe there is no greater calling than to help them when I can.
Naturally, I still feel the need to give to my parish to ensure that it has enough to operate, grow and flourish. I know now that many also benefit from the initiatives, courses, and activities from archdiocesan organisations, and I want to play my part too.
In the grand scheme of things, what I give does not amount to much. However, with each donation to charity, and with each contribution to the Church, I feel like I am embraced by God’s presence and love. He reassures me of how my gift will be used for the good of others, and how He will inspire others to do the same.