It’s Easter Sunday, so please indulge me with a bit of a sermon, one you can take in a human context as well as a spiritual one.
As a boy learning to appreciate grammar and punctuation, I remember noticing the apostrophe in the name of Bashas’ grocery stores. It was placed after the s, rather than before it, meaning that it was plural. Thus, the stores aren’t named for one person named Basha, but for all of them.
As we have been learning from so many accounts this past week, for Eddie Basha, the chain’s former chief executive officer who passed away last week at 75, taking individual credit was not something he cared much about. In fact, as we have been hearing, so many of his rather significant acts of charity were done anonymously. Only now are we finding out about them as some he helped have stepped forward.
It appears that Basha took seriously Jesus’ admonition about such matters. It’s found in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus talked about storing treasure in heaven rather than down here, so it’s pretty clear how he felt about inconspicuous acts of charity.
When we hear that someone solved a difficult problem or survived a painful ordeal, we tend to think of how well that person managed on his or her own. We might even pass along compliments to that person reflecting such thoughts. But in many cases people don’t get past problems or ordeals alone, instead, to paraphrase the Beatles, they get by with a little help from their friends.
Most of the time, it’s just not apparent in the smiling face of a loved one who is now doing much better that one or more others helped carry their load.
I just attended a local Good Friday service. One of the hymns sung was Michael Poirier’s “Strength for the Journey.” The title and the lyrics describe God telling us he’ll be there to support and refresh us in our life paths.
Poirier wrote lyrics that call for the words “strength for the journey” to be sung after, “I will be,” which are sung three times: “I will be, I will be, I will be strength for the journey.”
I’d heard the song before, and the grown-up grammarian in me had thought it should say, “I will give strength” rather than “I will be strength.” But on Friday it struck me for the first time that the song means not merely giving strength, but being strength, and not only God doing it, but the rest of us, too.
We are called upon to be, not only give, strength for the journey, vitally needed strength to help someone shoulder a burden that is so real that it is actually embodied in the helper, not merely a commodity the helper simply passes on tangibly to the helped.
“Greater love has no man than this,” Jesus said, “that a man gives up his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) I used to think that solely meant actually dying so another might live, but it also means sharing your life – perhaps to your discomfort or even your loss – so that a friend might have it easier. This can be done openly or quietly.
Giving up your life in this context means the one you care about is able to have something you have, know what you know, feel what you feel, because you gave not only material things, but a part of your very essence.
In today’s parlance that might well mean “paying it forward.” Even so, it means attachment, not detachment, from one’s acts of goodwill.
Christians believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate in giving up one’s life for one’s friends. Easter, the anniversary of what Christians believe was his resurrection, reminds us that his teachings call for us to give ourselves as we give food, shelter, money and so on, to those in need.
Time and again, Eddie Basha turned to offer help to the less fortunate and often did so with virtually no one knowing about it.
Let’s hope that Arizona history, where his name surely will be writ large for the grocery store chain he and his family built and his many accomplishments in business, politics and education, also remembers his many deeds of unheralded virtue.
Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on weekends. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.