No matter what our faith may be, I would tend to believe that almost everyone knows the story of the widow’s mite, the story of the poor widow who entered the temple who put her offering into the temple treasury. She did so quietly and alone. She was not looking for any recognition as the wealthy were who went before her putting in large amounts money and making sure that all who were around were well aware of their generosity.
But we know how the story ends. Jesus told his disciples that the two mites that this widow gave (value less than a penny) was worth more than all the wealthy donors that went before her.
They gave from their surplus, from what they had which they would not miss. The money they gave had no value – it meant little if nothing to them. But the widow gave from her need, the small amount meant that she may not have been able to eat that day or have to forgo something else she needed. None of that mattered to her, she knew what poverty was and what it was like to be alone and hungry and she wanted to help others who may be in need as well.
This story is well known, in fact all one has to say is “the widow’s mite” and we all nod our heads in recognition. We know it means a small amount that is given from the heart and personal sacrifice.
But I believe that that story retells itself over and over in our community and in communities like ours around the country and the world.
I was reminded of this story and the power of the generosity of those who give out of their own need knowing as only one who may be less fortunate can know.
Some time ago we were at Ingle’s Markets in Enka collecting food for our Headlock on Hunger program with national chairman Jim Ross, Ingles Markets, and iheart Radio. JR was meeting fans, signing autographs, and talking about his barbecue and condiment products (part of the proceeds of their sales also go to Headlock on Hunger). Our partner iheart radio was announcing on the air as our event continued inside.
We were there about an hour or so when a wonderful lady came in and walked up to our table. She introduced herself and said that she heard about us and even though she had passed the store ten minutes before, she turned around and came back.
She introduced herself and said that she just wanted to come by and thank us for all the times that Eblen had helped her in the past. I thanked her and asked her if she came by to meet JR and would like to get a picture with him or an autographed photo.
“No, “ she said, “I just wanted to say thank you and to give you this.” She then handed me a handful of change that she had in her car.
“This is all I have,” she told me. “I had been a nurse for my entire career before I fell ill. I have been on disability for sometime and I have had to come to Eblen on occasion for help and you all have always been so kind. I don’t have much – this is a five Monday month so I have to make my money stretch a little further.”
I tried not to accept the change and asked her if we could help her in any way and she said, “No, I will be fine, I just wanted to say thank you and to help. Please take it – I would like to help.”
It was easy to see how much she wanted to give and to help those who may be struggling through life as she was or possibly even more so. All this time she was speaking quietly not wanting anyone to hear her. It wasn’t because she was embarrassed in any way, but it was obvious that she was giving from her heart and there was no need for anyone one else to know.
Years ago, Mother Teresa had written me “Don’t worry if you cannot help in big ways. Never think that a small action for someone in need is not much…”
It wasn’t the amount that mattered. It was the love that this wonderful lady showed and the tremendous compassion that she had for those in our community who were struggling. She didn’t come to talk about how she would give her last penny to help those in need, she came to give her last penny for those in need.
And in her simple and unselfish act the kindness she showed, unbeknownst to her, has resonated throughout so many hearts as the widow who gave the two mites in the temple centuries ago.
All gifts are important to any group that is working in public service. Our work isn’t about money, but money means medicine, a place to live, heat in the winter, food on the table, and so many other things that helps make life so much better for so many.
But we must all take care that we don’t minimize the wonderful gifts of forty-four cents that we all receive. We don’t hesitate to announce the large gifts, donations, and grants we receive from time to time, but how many of us look upon the heart and sacrifice that accompanies the few dollars or pennies that come to us from some of the most remarkable people in our community.
Isn’t it ironic that the widow who gave from her poverty and sought no recognition is still being talked about 2,000 years later? The same irony, I suppose, that lies in the act of this wonderful woman we met at Ingles that reminded us all that a modern widow’s mite can change the hearts of so many and also remind us of the impact that every gift has to those we serve.