That’s a lot of money, right? Or maybe it’s not that much. It’s too expensive for a t-shirt, but pretty reasonable for a wine-fueled lunch for four. $100 pays the babysitter when we’re out too late, or the airport garage when we’re too lazy to bus in from the remote lot. Those red envelopes always have a Benjamin or two inside. Sometimes I find them at the bottom of whatever purse was seasonal during Chinese New Year and it’s a fun little $100 surprise. And then I’ll just use those crisp bills to pay for play date pizzas, or Halloween candy, or another stockpile of phone chargers.
$100. Is it a lot of money? Sometimes. Could it change a day, a week, a life… a Church? Maybe. Maybe it could.
Recently I had a rare and delicious afternoon alone with Zealot Sister. We’re hardly ever together, and never alone. But we were visiting Aunt Billie for her 80th birthday bash weekend and the two of us stole away for a bit of shopping. Midwestern Law dictates that if a quorum of female cousins assembles, a trip to Kohl’s is mandatory. So we did that. But first, it was just Paige and me in the fancy shopping district of Columbus, Ohio buying unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive stuff.
As I fed the meter with stray, bottom-of-the-purse quarters, a young woman approached.
“Can I bother you for some change? I’m so hungry.”
Who has cash, though… am I right? I was already digging for meter money, so she could obviously see how currently cash-free I was. But then I remembered my secret stash—the bill I squirreled away after the $10 fiasco. So I gave it to her.
I didn’t know her or her story. And like most people, I’m leery of strangers in general and especially street-dwellers violating my personal space. I hardly have a habit of giving away money in such an unplanned, impulsive manner. And I’m sure even as I was handing over the money, I wanted the whole exchange to end quickly because I’m a horrible person and loathe any reminder of ugliness or pain in the world.
“I have no idea why I did that.” I said to Zealot Sister as she looked at me all beatifically and quoted Scripture from memory because Zealot Sister isn’t called Zealot Sister just because it’s fun to call her Zealot Sister.
“Britt, she said she was hungry.”
It wasn’t the last request we received on the mean streets of Columbus. And even though I truly had no cash left to give, I wouldn’t have anyway. First of all, I am a horrible person. Also, no one else was hungry.
Is $100 a lot of money? For some, it is always a lot of money. For fewer people, it might not be. For a lucky handful of us, maybe it would be easy to give $100 away all of the time. Not every single day–though wouldn’t that be super fun? But what about once a week, or at least those weeks when you’re in the pews praying for a safer world and protection of the hungry people who have no home or country or shoes or hope. How about sending $100 along with those thoughts and prayers. Not every day; some days there’s only change in the bottom of the purse. But maybe today is the day to give away the emergency bill—because someone else has a greater emergency.
Is $100 too much? For me, it’s not. For me, $100 is the happiest check I write each week. I put $100 in the Church plate to travel along with my prayers for a broken world, hurting friends, and to accompany one thousand thank yous for the life I have. $100 sounds cheap for that sort of thing. To me, anyway.
There are 175 of us who pledge regularly at Church. I assume most people who send in that yearly Stewardship check sit in the pews at least 20 of the 52 weeks of the liturgical year, even with summers off and unavoidable skiing. I wonder… what if all of us dropped $100 into the plate each week along with our prayers for hope and healing? Is it too much? Is it enough to be considered tithing? Is it too little and we’re already sending a yearly pledge so purse change is sufficient for any given Sunday?
The math tells us it could change everything. $100 from some of us, some of the weeks could add up to $350,000 a year, or just exactly the shortfall between what we collect and what we need to keep our Church growing, current, music-filled, and just the way we love it. Is that a coincidence? Not to me.
$100. Is that a lot of money? Is it too much to give a hungry girl on the street, a faraway stranger with no home, programs helping kids living in public housing or those with no homes at all, initiatives to make all of our public spaces inclusive, funds for cancer research, the local food pantry, or to drop into the offertory plate? That’s for you to decide. Giving Tuesday is December 1st. Where is your $100 (or $10 or $100,000) going to go?
Share your $100 stories… the ones that remind us we are One Community responsible for feeding all who ask.
Please add links in the comments to your favorite causes and tell us why you would happily part with your emergency Benjamin to further its mission.