May 15, 2013

Coffee Money: An Extraordinary Gift

“I role dice with my buddies.” 

I once worked with a parish outside of Philadelphia. Many in that parish’s community were on restricted incomes. Yet, that January, the roof quite literally fell in and a capital campaign became a must.

When thinking about giving to a capital campaign, potential gifts come from extraordinary sources of income. These extraordinary gifts don’t take the place of a parishioner’s ordinary annual gift. They are in addition to it. 

Following my explanation of this to a group of parishioners, a man approached me in his late 70’s. He noted that he was living on his monthly social security check and that he pretty much gave as much as he could to the church in his annual pledge. 

As I was thanking him for his sacrificial annual giving, his face brightened and he interrupted me. He stated that twice a week he went out for coffee with a group of local guys and threw dice. I admit that at that moment I was afraid of where he was headed with this train of though.

“I'm willing to give up my coffee money for two years as a gift for the campaign.”

Oh, he still would get together with his guys and bet his pennies. But he was willing to drink water instead of coffee and risk his friends’ teasing. To this day, this man’s gift serves as an example of giving for me.

In the Gospel, we know Jesus was able to take a boy’s offering and multiply it to meet the needs of a hungry crowd. We often focus on the miracle that there was enough food to go around.
Yet, what about the miracle that occurred when the boy gave his transformational gift? It took real sacrifice on that boy’s part. A willingness to potentially go without his meal and worse…to risk the possibility that his gift may not be seen as “enough”.

I believe a transformational gift is rooted in sacrifice. In God’s economy, our coffee money will not just be “enough”, but an extraordinary gift.