Generosity superheroes

December 21, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 1
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen |

Superhero movies are all the rage. One website says it is the most popular movie genre around. We all want someone to put things right in turbulent times. Even Lego Batman might do.

When we feel like things are spinning out of our control, we tend to hold on tighter to what we have. What happened to the right always prevailing, we ask? Oh, to have heroes put things back in order the way we expect them to be.

It is surprising how many times our expectation of the order of things is upended by the stories in the Bible. There we find unexpected superheroes like shepherds and widows, the vulnerable people whose names are not recorded. In one of these stories, we find the prophet Elijah on the lam during a drought he predicted to King Ahab. Spoiler alert: Elijah is not the superhero of this story.

With God’s prodding, Elijah has travelled to enemy territory and encounters a widow on the outskirts of the town of Zarephath (cue the melodramatic music). Elijah calls out to the widow for a drink of water. “Oh, and please, a piece of bread.” At the request for bread, the widow, obligated by the hospitality codes of her culture to do as Elijah asks, stands up to him. “Are you crazy?” she asks loudly (loosely translated). In no uncertain words, she tells Elijah that she is just out gathering a few sticks to make a small fire over which she will cook up her last handful of flour with the last of her oil, after which she expects she and her son will starve.

“Don’t be afraid,” Elijah tells her. “If you do this for me first, God promises there will be enough.” Then the true superhero of the story is revealed: The widow risks everything to be generous to a stranger and finds there is enough for the days to come. (You can read the whole story in
I Kings 17).

At Abundance Canada, we work with many contemporary superheroes who act in generous ways that don’t necessarily conform to what is expected. They take “giving risks” that show their trust in God, who desires enough for all.

John R. and Paula Dyck come to mind. While a farmer and businessman, John R. provided unpaid leadership to the fledgling organization that became Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). Together John R. and Paula expressed their generosity by donating earnings from their assets to support leadership development projects in the church.

When John R. succumbed too young to cancer, Paula continued their shared generosity legacy by establishing an endowment fund at MFC (now Abundance Canada) even while continuing to donate earnings from their assets. Paula, at 103 years old, was overheard by her daughter Velma while praying: “Dear God, thank you for all the blessings you have given me. I don’t remember what they are, but you do.”

The Dycks are generosity superheroes, not because of the amounts they have given away, but because they risked incredible trust in a God who provides enough for all.

Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Are there generosity superheroes whose example has influenced you to live more generously? Every risk we take for generosity can expand our own potential to be an unexpected superhero and example to others. Let us help you discover the generosity superhero inside of you.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance office or visit

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