As a little child of four, I was given a shiny new quarter from my father and mother to do a most important ritual known to me. With George Washington’s head on one side and the nation’s eagle on the other, I held that quarter tight in my hand from home to church for fear that I would misplace it before the important job was done. That execution was the most exciting moment of my Sunday ritual – to take the collection plate given to me, put the quarter in and pass it on to the person beside me.
Sometimes, we put quarters in a collection box we made in Sunday School. Sometimes, it was the fish box that my brother, sister and I put quarters in throughout a particular season. It was exciting! We knew were were doing something important but really didn’t understand it. We saw adults doing it week after week and we, as kids, wanted to participate in too!
I didn’t know where those quarters were going to end up, but I would always be excited by the mystery. My parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers and pastors always said that my contribution would make someone my age smile. “Who?” I asked and they would respond, “A person just like you.” My mind would wonder and still question, “Just like me?” Mrs. Gerard, one of my teachers, one said, “Someone looks after you, like your parents and grandparents and when you put your quarters in the collection late every Sunday, you are looking after someone just like you.”
Just like me?, I thought to myself. Would I ever meet them? Are they here in my town or are they in another country? The mystery would continue to plague me Sunday after Sunday, year after year. As the years passed without going to church except on holidays, I didn’t contribute. I had forgotten the importance of giving that smile to someone just like me. My spirit was in need of love and rejuvenation. Then I made my home at this church in Charleston and felt the spirit fill my soul with the love of giving on Sunday.
My total understanding of what it means to give didn’t occur until I participated in our Friday Lunch Mission during the summer. One hot Friday in July, I received a call from a church member telling me that the delivery team needed ten more sandwiches for one of the local mobile home parks. The kitchen team and I quickly made sandwiches and I took them out to the park. In the rush, I had forgotten to ask exactly where the delivery team was located. Instead of calling for directions, I entered the first street and began zigzagging through each street and observing the landscape. As I passed the homes, my mind began to think about the conditions these families lived in every day. As I turned down the third street, I saw the delivery team in front of a home and I was feeling a little embarrassed by my emotions. The kids on the porch were enjoying their sandwiches in front of their less than acceptable homes. I quickly handed over the sandwiches and felt my emotions bubble to the surface and I did everything I could to hold them back until I was alone.
I remember looking into the rear view mirror and wondering why we allowed this to happen to many just like me? The flood gates opened and it was in that moment I came full circle from my childhood.
One quarter has become a plethora of shiny quarters. Our collective giving provides smiles beyond the walls of church. We may not see the beauty and joy of our giving but it always promises smiles and comfort in times of uncertainty. All it takes is one shiny quarter given regularly to make a difference in a life of someone just like me and just like you.
Cameron Douglas Craig grew up in First Presbyterian Church and is the son of Stephen and Moffett Craig. Cameron is a geographer, climatologist, and documentarian in the Department of Geology/Geography at Eastern Illinois University. He is also an accomplished musician and composer and performs regularly during Christmas Eve at FPC.