By Joel Sams, Contributing Writer

One of the most important events of the academic year is imminent. No, I don’t mean summer break. I mean Gratitude Day.

If you haven’t heard yet, Gratitude Day (April 15) will be a celebration of the donors and the gifts that keep Asbury moving forward.  If you’ve ever received an institutional scholarship, enjoyed the chimes in the Hager bell tower, used Jewell Walk or even occupied a chapel seat (this should be all of us, right?), Gratitude Day is more than an abstract observance. It’s a celebration of gifts that have directly affected every one of us. That’s why this event matters, and that’s why I agreed to write this article at the suggestion of the Advancement office. We should all be more aware of the many gifts we have received as a campus, and that awareness should make us actively grateful. 

Generosity is all around us. I’ve been a student worker in Asbury’s Advancement office for nearly four years, and I am constantly humbled by the volume of generosity I see on a daily basis. One of my frequent tasks is processing gift receipts. Every time I mail an envelope to a donor, I’m confronted with the realization that another person (frequently a complete stranger) has made a gift to Asbury so that I — we — could benefit. Other times, though, it’s not a stranger. Faculty, staff, parents and current students also give generously. Donors are all around us, and they’re usually closer than we think.

Another way I’ve experienced generosity is through literal, physical gifts all over campus. Beginning Monday, you’ll see many of them marked with big, purple tags. These gifts include things like the Miller Building, Kinlaw Library, the new sound system in Hughes, the Kirkland Complex, the Rainwater Arena, the soccer field, library study rooms, Bibles in prayer chapels, and, as I mentioned early, our chapel seats. This is yet another reason Gratitude Day matters. If we’re going to benefit from these gifts, and many others, on a daily basis, it’s only right that we should learn where they came from and be thankful.

The generosity of donors has also been important to me on a personal level. I’m the second kid in a family of seven, and, as we’re all aware, “private,” “Christian” and “Liberal Arts” do not spell “cheap.” There’s no way my family could have sent me to college without aid, and there’s no way I could have done it myself without assuming crippling debt. But again, thanks to generous donors, I was able to secure the scholarship funding that made my college education possible. When I saw my near-miraculous financial aid offer for Fall 2011, I knew God had done it. But I know something now that I didn’t entirely grasp then — the work of God in bringing me to Asbury was accomplished by ordinary people with generous hearts. Behind that financial aid package stood a long line of people who cared about Asbury and wanted to pass on the gift. 

For me, generosity can become overwhelming. How are we supposed to respond to gifts we didn’t do anything to earn and that we definitely can’t repay? I think the answer is giving back. We’ve established the fact that generosity is essential. But the funny thing about generosity is that if it’s not passed down, it dies. So while we can’t all make major gifts, we can at least join the network of giving that will enable future generations of Asburians to enjoy what we’ve had. We can all recognize our indebtedness to the generosity of others, and we can all reciprocate in our own ways. Verbalizing our appreciation is a start, but it’s not enough. Active gratitude is imitation.