Eileen Howard’s Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

THE WIDOW’S MITE By Eileen Howard

The Church for All People includes people like me, with economic means, but also many people who have limited, or even almost no means of income.   Yet, part of our church message is that we are all called to give back to God financially with some sort of tithe, in whatever ways we are able and called. 

Early in the life of our church, my husband George counted the offering after church.  He opened up an offering envelope to find 17 of the most beat-up, dirty, scraped-up pennies you have ever seen.  Blackened, smashed and twisted, they had obviously been collected out of the gutter and off the sidewalk.  Someone in our congregation had gathered this meager collection of cash to be able to put something in the offering plate that morning.  

How much more of a commitment was that thoughtful act than my relatively meaningless $10.00 in the offering plate? 

Jeff is a tall, plump African-American man, with dark rimmed round glasses, who regularly visits the Free Store and attends worship on Sunday mornings.  Jeff has a big heart, and also experiences some mental challenges. 

I happened to be in the Church on a weekday while the Free Store was open, saw Jeff and greeted him.  While I was talking to someone else, Jeff came over and handed me a gift bag. 

It was something he had picked out for himself from the Free Store.  In it were some Avon products – body wash, bubble bath, etc. 

I protested that I didn’t need it and he said “No, please take it.  I really appreciate your music on Sunday morning,” and he moved off before I could say anything else. 

I examined the bag further and found that there was a children’s CD in it as well.  I assumed that he had accidentally put it in there and found him to try to give it back.

 “I don’t have any kids at home” I said, “Why don’t you keep this”. 

“That’s okay”, he replied.  “Just pay it forward”.  And he moved off again. 

Pay it forward.  And, graciously accept gifts given in love.  My lessons from Jeff.

Last but not least, I had two lessons from Mike Dyle.  Mike was a homeless Vet who passed away about a year ago.  When we first met him he had a camp down by the river.  Mike was our part-time custodian for some time.

One Saturday, Mike was running around cleaning and he talked to me non-stop while he rushed here and there.  He said, “Today was my lucky day!  I found a dollar on the street!” 

I congratulated him, assuming he was happy because it gave him some extra spending money. 

Then he went on, “I was so happy because now I have money to put in the offering tomorrow.” 

If I had a windfall, would my first thought be putting it in the offering?

Mike had been accumulating a snazzy wardrobe –a new pair of jeans, a couple of new shirts, and his most prized possessions – two pairs of running shoes, brand new, that came into the Free Store and were exactly his size.  He was wearing one pair and keeping the other, his Air Jordans, for a backup pair.

A homeless man came into the store.  He was down on his luck and the staff was helping him outfit himself with some clothes.  Mike asked him what size shoes he wore.  When he found out the man wore his size, Michael brought out the Air Jordans and gave them to him without hesitation.

I probably have 20 pairs of shoes in my closet.  Would I give them all away if someone needed them?

In the book “When Helping Hurts”, authors Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett and John Perkins redefine “Poverty” as something that can be either material or spiritual and call us to mutuality in our relationships with those in material poverty.  I find my own poverty of spirit challenged by those we label as “poor”.   I am a helped spiritually because of forming relationships with those I came to “help”.

About jofacilitator

On Sept 1, 2020, I celebrated 50 years of work with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, facilitating meetings, groups, communities, and organizations, making it possible for ordinary people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. I retired on December 31, 2021, but still volunteer with the organization.
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