When I was little, my mother was far from wealthy. She had once been kind of a baller because of her husband, but when the marriage ended, she had to start from scratch all by herself. She worked as a waitress and took a second job as a real estate agent in order to provide for the two of us. Most of the families in my town drove fancy cars and had huge houses. We had a normal car, but we had so much fun blasting the stereo and singing at the top of our lungs on long drives. We had a little house, but that little house was filled with love and fun that those big houses could never even dream of.
Anyway, I remember one time my mother got a $100 tip from a customer and she was so thrilled to have a little extra spending money. It was one solitary $100 bill. We went to the mall to spend it on some swag - note: in the 1990s it was not called "swag."
Right before we entered, there was a homeless person begging for money. My mother did not even hesitate - she gave that homeless person the $100 bill she had.
I could NOT believe it. My mother worked so hard to be blessed with such a tip! Why is she giving it away?!
I asked her, "couldn't you just give him $5? Why the whole $100?!?" She replied,"all I had is that one $100 bill."
Alhamdulilah, I have been blessed in so many ways. This lesson was one of the best lessons I could ever learn as a kid. My mom's ideas really, really influenced me - both when she was alive and far after she died - may Allah be pleased with her beautiful, precious soul.
We did not agree on a lot of things, but we agreed that when someone asks you for something, they are asking you for a reason. JUST GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEED.
I may have been able to buy a couple of computer games or clothes from Abercrombie with that $100 bill, but right now those items would be long gone. That lesson she taught me on that day was invaluable.
I'm not trying to toot my own horn. I'm not the greatest person alive - I'm far from Mother Theresa and I selfishly buy myself designer bags and shoes and other items that are far from being considered necessities.
But, one thing I try to always do is to give to those who ask of me. Alhamdulilah, I've never needed to beg on the street. But, if I did, I would hope that someone would be as sympathetic to my situation.
If your friend starts a group to send items to refugees as they enter the country, you should give. If a friend says in lieu of birthday gifts, she wants a donation to a foundation, you should give. If a friend is helping a family in need to bring Christmas gifts to a family, independent of our religious ideas, you should still give. Perhaps sweatshirts, coats, or other items that the family is in need of and that are not necessarily "Christmasy," but you still give.
Really, you have the easiest job ever. They're the ones that are doing the hard part.
I know this might contradict with some of our religious ideals because in Islam and in other religions we are not allowed to give money to be used on drugs or alcohol or anything else considered "haram," but we are also reminded in Quran and hadith that we are judged based onourintentions. That is such a Mercy in and of itself.
Go out of your way to help other people. Buy a random person's drink at Starbucks. I don't care if you think Starbucks is a Jewish company and supports Israel. The good you are doing by making the world better is the only way that we will combat issues between religions anyway.
This morning I was tested by Allah on this principle that my mother instilled in me (and that she deserves all of the credit for). God gives us beautiful tests and opportunities all the time if we look hard enough for them.
You never know what tiny thing you do can get you into Jannah (Heaven).
Allah once forgave a prostitute for her sins because she gave water to a thirsty dog. Imagine what He would forgive you for! [Link to more details on that hadith here]
All that we have is only a blessing from Allah. I could just as easily have been born destitute. I could just as easily have been born a billionaire. I was, instead, given this beautiful soul for my mother and that is a blessing beyond any amount of money or time or help that I could give to another person.
May Allah (swt) make us all generous with the blessings that He bestowed upon us and that He put us in charge of. Alhamdulilah a million times.