Submitted by Joy Miller
I’ll never forget Easter 1946, I was fourteen, my little sister Ocy was twelve, and my older sister Darlene was sixteen. We lived at home with our mother and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school children to raise and no money. By 1946 my older sisters were married, and my brothers had left home.
A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy fifty pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and did not listen to the radio, we would save money on that month’s electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For fifteen cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on those pot holders.
That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we would sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. Because we had about eighty people in our church, we figured that with whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be twenty times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We did not care that we would not have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church!
On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn’t own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn’t seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in both of her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. As we sat in church I heard some teenagers taking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, but I still felt rich. When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10, and each of us girls put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch, Mom had a surprise for me. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled eggs with our fried potatoes. Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she did not say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20, one $10, and seventeen $1. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We did not talk, but just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling poor. We children had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who did not have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other children visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we did not have a lot of things that other people had, but I had never thought we were poor. That Easter Day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family; therefore, we must be poor. I did not like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to go back to church.
Everyone there probably knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over one hundred students. I wondered if the children at school knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. We didn’t know. We’d never known we were poor.
We did not want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we did not talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in, and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, “Can’t we all sacrifice to help those poor people?”
We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He had not expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, “You must have a rich family in this church.”
Suddenly it struck us! We had giver $87 of that “little over $100.” We were the rich family in the church! Had not the missionary said so? From that day on I have never been poor again. I have always remembered how rich I am.
When I first read this story I thought of our brethren in India.
They don’t have very much but they don’t think they are “poor” either.
But they still give to help those in need.
What can we give to help others in our lives? – Joy Miller