A precious gift and a grateful recipient
“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.'”
(Mark 14:3–6 NIV)
There are so many things about these short verses that give an insight into the life of Jesus. Bethany was a village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles from Jerusalem and the final station in the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. It was just before the Jewish Festival of the Passover and what became known as the Last Supper with Jesus. He knew He was soon to be sacrificed.
An alabaster jar was a single use sealed flask with a long neck that was broken off when the contents were used and contained enough for one application. Nard is an aromatic oil extracted from the roots of a perennial herb that grows in India. This was an expensive and once only anointing with oil. Jesus was receiving a precious physical anointing prior to His death, which the bestower knew nothing about at the time. It was a sacrificial act by the woman and a grateful recipient in Jesus who knew what was about to come.
In today’s act Kezia asks us:
“How often do we see what’s precious to us as a generous gift to someone else?“Kezia Owusu-Yianoma
We were challenged with three options as follows:
Green: Think of an everyday item that’s in good condition. Find a recipient and give it away. Umbrellas, handcream, etc.
Yellow: How do you get around? Can you give a friend a lift too?
Red: Just like Mary with her alabaster jar, what can you give away that you can’t undo? Maybe it’s a bottle of perfume, or a favourite jumper. Bless someone else with something that means something to you.
What did I do?
I genuinely couldn’t think of something for the red option. I’m continuing to have a think about that one. I tried to do green (more about that below) and ended up defaulting back to yellow. Now I know that seems like the wrong way round but bear with me.
Colossal cost of car ownership
We live in Singapore. The cost of cars here is astronomical and everyone has to have a Certificate of Entitlement to own a car and with other factors and fees, buying a car with an open market value of around S$19, 370 (£10,769) will cost S$88,543 (£49,227). Source: https://blog.seedly.sg/factors-cost-car-price-singapore/
This is from 2017:
Average Cost of Car Ownership in Singapore. A new Toyota Corolla Altis costs S$104,998 as of April 2017. Every year, you might expect to pay an average of S$1,473 a year on car insurance, S$621 for servicing/maintenance costs, S$742 in road tax, and S$2,341 in petrol costs.
We are only due to be here for a couple of years so owning a car doesn’t make financial sense. We could spend our entire time in a taxi whilst here and still not spend anywhere near that amount of money. Instead we use the very efficient MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) system and the buses. Everything is interlinked by apps so travelling around is super easy and it’s quite difficult to actually get lost. Buses and trains are very frequent (every few minutes) so waiting times are minimal. Bus captains (drivers) are very helpful and ALWAYS wait for someone rushing for the bus and there is a blue bell for those less abled needing assistance to embark and disembark. It’s great.
Ez-link : the easy way to travel!
We have EZ-link cards. They’re like Oyster cards in London but better. Why better? Well here in Singapore you tap in and tap out for each journey. The average length of a journey costs S$0.88 (£0.49) but if you do multiple journeys and don’t travel far enough for the extra bus / MRT it counts it as one journey and refunds the money to your card.
So for example on one day I took two buses totalling S$3.11 (£1.73) but S$1.45 (£0.81) was automatically refunded to my card as I hadn’t travelled far enough. So both journeys actually cost me S$1.66 (£0.92). Like I said super cheap! I also have my card automatically reload to S$20 (£11.12) when it runs out. The system detects there’s not enough for your journey when you tap in and automatically deducts the cash from your bank account to top up the card whilst you travel so when you tap out it’s updated. It’s an incredibly efficient system.
So why am I telling you all this? We don’t have a car so can’t give lifts. We are the recipient of lifts though from a very kind church family who regularly offer lifts to / from places. It’s really wonderful of them and something we appreciate and do not take for granted. I know how it feels to be the recipient of generous people sharing their gifts.
So what do we do instead?
The yellow option was easy. We have extra Ez-link cards, loaded with prepay so we can give them to visitors needing to travel around Singapore. We’ve had several visitors now who appreciate the thought and ease for them of travelling around without having to worry about currency or having to buy a card themselves. It’s a small act with a big impact.
Why was the Green option harder?
Singapore is a very rich country and it’s actually quite difficult giving things away here. The culture here is to always have something new. There is a Salvation Army charity shop in Singapore but anecdotally I have been told that they ship donations abroad as noone buys them here. It’s so unlike the U.K. we’re we are so used to recycling pre loved possessions via charity shops. Donating to them and buying from them is part of everyday life in the U.K. and no one thinks twice about it – after all everyone loves a bargain and donating to a charity at the same time is a win win situation.
I did find an appeal in the local community magazine asking for donations to a basics bank. Awesome I thought – finally a chance to donate. I purchased several items from the wish list and added some feminine hygiene products to boot to compliment ‘act 3 period poverty’. The drop off address was a 1.5km round trip – I could walk there and back (in 31C) and be done in 30 minutes.
Pfft! How naive of me. I got there to find this sign:
Thanks but no thanks. Seriously, how quick do you have to be to donate here?! I really need to up my game.
We’ve also sorted through my daughter’s bedroom and dug out items to donate and I’ve sorted clothes that I can donate too. We just need to find the right outlet. I’ve found a FB group and previously have managed to donate some of my daughter’s preloved clothes she outgrew. I’m going to try that again and see how I get on.
So that’s how we defaulted to the yellow option from the green option. Hopefully both will be possible – time will tell. I’m still thinking about the red option and the precious gift the woman gave to Jesus. It may take some time but it’s on my radar.
These are the toys and games Zahra donated to the Rohingya refugees via a collection at school.