A portrait of generosity

December 9, 2003

As a young child, it's not easy to understand the concepts of sharing and generosity, but they are among the first lessons I learned in my life. As an adult, they are the lessons to which I keep coming back.
I grew up not only learning to share my toys and my outgrown clothes, but even my parents ... just look at one of our family portraits!' Through all these things, a greater lesson was modeled for me -- learning to share from the abundance that God has given.
'In spring 1979, my parents opened a children's home in East Texas called Azleway Boys Ranch. As I grew into my childhood and teenage years at the ranch, Azleway expanded to include foster care, drug treatment facilities and various other programs.'Through these years of watching my parents live out their ministry through Azleway, I began to understand what it means to truly give of yourself to others. I not only learned this through my parents' words, but I also saw it in their actions each day as they reached out to care for abused and neglected children. 
'Our home was always open to anyone and everyone. In fact, one of our favorite family mottoes was, "There's always room for one more at the table." Many times, my dad brought home a child from the ranch who was having a rough day and just needed to be around "family" for a little while. Or, he'd bring home someone who wasn't getting along well with the boys in his cottage and needed a break with people who wouldn't constantly pick on him. Whatever the situation, they came, and they were welcomed at our table and in our home as we ate together, laughed, shared stories and just enjoyed each other's company.
'I also saw this genuine sense of love and compassion displayed each year at Christmas. Many of the children who came to Azleway knew what it was like to be passed around from parent to parent or from one foster home to another. Although they had grown used to dealing with disappointment, Christmas was never an easy time. Azleway was able to bring joy and meaning to the lives of these children. This wasn't because of a present or any material thing we could possibly give them. It was because someone cared enough to pick out something just for them and wrap it and put it under the tree. And someone cared enough to make a stocking with their name on it to hang on the mantel of the fireplace. These may sound like small things to most people, but in the lives of these children, they made such an impact.' 
'The Azleway staff and the members of the East Texas community gave so generously, offering love and acceptance in a practical way to children in need. I cannot express in words the blessing I received from seeing the joy on a child's face as he opened a package with something inside just for him, or another child as he rode his brand-new red bicycle around the lake. 
There are so many stories I could share, so many lives touched, but instead I will leave you with this. Generosity is not giving just what's expected of you and nothing more. It's living a life of going that extra mile. In the Bible, I Timothy 6:18 commands us to be "rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share." This is not always the easiest lesson to learn or the easiest thing to do, but I guarantee you that the rewards of generosity will go far above and beyond your expectations. 
'At age 25, I look back and realize that these portraits of generosity will be with me for the rest of my life. Nothing is more important than sharing your faith, your love and your life with others. This is a legacy that I hope to live each and every day.

Hood, BA '00, received her degree in journalism with a concentration in business. She works in music ministry at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, Waco. Her husband,'Trenton, BA '00, JD '03, is an attorney at a Waco law firm.