A couple of weeks ago, in church, our minister got up to preach his sermon and, before he began and without a word, he stepped down from the pulpit and began to distribute something. It looked like he was peeling bills off a roll of cash. We in the choir were served last and discovered that he was handing out fifty dollar bills. To each of us. “Are we on Oprah?” someone whispered. Seemed like it. I had noticed some surprised, some uncomfortable looks on the parishioners’ faces and, when he got to me, I took the bill, Ulysses S. Grant staring out at me, somewhat reluctantly. It was certainly a strange feeling to receive the gift of money, just for having come to church. What was going on here?
Then Mike returned to the pulpit with his explanation. A few years ago, the church had raised a special fund so that we could invite an author whose book we had studied in book group to speak at our church. The author’s fee was high but donations came in and we made special preparations for the time when he would travel to our small church in our small New Hampshire village. It was heady stuff. However, at the last minute, the author had canceled, I think he had the flu, I can’t recall. But I do remember the audible sighs of disappointment that accompanied the announcement that he was not going to be able to come. Well, apparently that fine sum of money had been sitting in our treasury ever since. And the deacons, in a recent meeting, had posed the question to each other: what to do with this money? Apparently there were several suggestions made before it was decided to give it back to the parishioners. But with a string attached. We would be asked to do something good with it, to effectively carry out a ministry of our own, to invest this money in some kind of charity. Mike urged us to “be creative” — find a way to make the biggest impact possible with this amount of money. Make it grow, in whatever way we can, even if that meant investing it in the stock market and then giving the result to charity. (Times like this, that seemed to me to be a good way to lose this money.) On Easter Sunday, he continued, we will be asked to report on what we did with our fifty bucks.
As he spoke, the paper bill in my hand began to feel like a hot potato. I was anxious to pass it on, to find that ministry. But what would it be? My first thought was to put it into the plate next Sunday. But that wasn’t what Mike meant. That was too easy. So is the Salvation Army and the United Way and the local food bank, all worthy charities I could think of. There are so many. I thought about all the many needs in this world, enough to sink a flotilla of war ships. What could it be that would be absolutely maximum?
I came home and, with a push-pin, attached the bill to my bulletin board. I was afraid that otherwise it might find its way into my wallet, where it would get lost in all my own needs. With Ulysses staring at me every morning, I’m anxious to find a unique charity. I would love to think of something really wonderful to do with this money. Maybe there are too many options, too many needs. I’m looking for an inspiration. Can you help me choose the very best, optimum way to make this money work to someone else’s advantage? There is time between now and Easter but I’d rather do it now. So write me and give me some ideas. I’m open to anything!