Thursday, July 25, 2013

Coins In A Jar, A Tale About Thankfulness

Coins in a Jar,
A Tale About Thankfulness
This is a wonderful tale based in truth and has been widely circulated in our town.  It has been an inspiration to many over the years.  I hope it inspires you.

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COINS IN A JAR, A TALE ABOUT THANKFULNESS

This account goes back to the early days of the town; when the town was just a farming community and before industry or much business had yet come to the area.

It was after the harvest season and the church deacons were meeting with the pastor to discuss the tedious affairs of budget, necessities, and giving.  It was a warm autumn day and they sat with the windows open enjoying pie and lemon aid while they talked.  The sound of birds and the neighborhood boys playing in nearby fields drifted lazily through the open window.

One deacon looked out the window and seeing the boys barefoot in torn coveralls playing ball brought something to his mind.  "Brothers, we have been blessed, so it is time we were a blessing to others.  I propose we search out the neediest family in our congregation and give them a gift to help lift their burden of poverty."

Outside the ball rolled under the pastor's window.  Billy Hanson raced the other boys to retrieve it.  Lingering they heard part of the conversation without understanding its full impact.

The voice of the deacon continued.  "We must be discrete and keep the special gift a secret, so the family will not feel ashamed that they are the poorest family.  It may offend them and we may lose their good will.  Let's speak privately to the members of the church and ask who is willing to give to a special offering for this poor family."

The kids from the field called, "Billy, bring the ball."

With slow thoughtful strides, Billy returned to the field.  "I was just listening to the grown-ups talk," he told the older kids.

"You are just a kid." one of the boys said, "You don't understand the things they are talking about."

"Yes, I do!" Billy retorted.  "I know there is a family who goes to the church who is the poorest in the county, and they are going to take a special offering to help the poor family, but secretly so they won't have their feelings hurt."

"Well, if it is a secret keep it a secret, and don't spoil the surprise." said John the oldest.

The sun began lower and the day was ending with a haze over the farmland.  The deacons went to their homes and the boys wandered across the fields to their dinners.

The boy's father folded his calloused hands, rested his elbows on the raw plank dinner table and prayed. "We thank you, Oh, God, that you have been so generous to us. We thank you for this meal.  We thank you for these healthy children you have blessed us with.  We thank you that you put fruit on our trees, and grain in our fields.  Thank you for the gift of your son who gave himself for us.  We pray you will remember those poor people in the world and favor them in their needs.  In Jesus name..." Together the family said, "Amen."

As potatoes and onion stew was ladled out Ma noticed that Billy was sullen. She asked, "Billy it is not like you to be so down faced, what is the matter?"

Looking up Billy said, "John said I shouldn't tell, but I heard a secret today and it is not a bad one, but a secret good thing."

"What is it?" prodded Susan.  "A surprise party?  Or is Mrs. Brown pregnant again?"

"Susan!" scolded Mama.

"It is not a real secret," said Matthew, Billy's brother.  "I heard it too; the deacons are taking up a special offering to help the poorest family in the church.

"Well," said Pa.  "Let's not talk about it.  We don't want to spoil the blessing of giving the gift."

"But Pa," Billy said, "you always pray and ask God to bless the poor people.  Shouldn't we do something too?  If we know about the offering shouldn't we help too?"

"You want to give to the offering, Billy?"

"If I can," he replied thoughtfully. "It's just I have nothing to give."

"You can help Mr. Taylor with his farm work. "Suggested Ma, "He is always looking for help. You can take what Mr. Taylor pays you and put it in the offering Sunday."

"I can help Mrs. Brown with her house work.  With all those kids I am sure she would like help," said Susie.

"I can do some odd jobs around the town for some extra money for the offering,"  Matthew added.

All agreed each would do jobs on neighboring farms and in the town to earn money and give the money to the pastor for the special offering.

The next day after studies and farm work the five children went out to search neighbors who may have work they could do for pay.

The excitement was thick in the kitchen that night as each reported their earnings and put a few coins on the table top.

"I am sure proud of you all," Pa said.

"We can't have all this money sitting on the dinner table,"  worried Ma,  "Some might fall off and go through one of the cracks in the floor it would become lost."  She opened a cabinet over the black cast iron stove, but it was empty.  "Maybe a can, or box, or sack."  She mused to herself, as she opened the hutch, but it only held utensils that couldn't be spared.

"Here," Pa leaned over and undid the rawhide lace on his boot.  He slipped it off and pulled his sock off of his foot.  "I can go without a sock for a good cause.  Use this."  He held up a gray patched sock.  John took it and held it while Susan counted as the coins dropped in.  When she got to ten all the coins fell out a hole in the sock.

John put his hand in and three fingers poked out of three holes. "How about the other?"

"It's worse." Ma giggled.

"I know," said Matthew and disappeared out the door.  A moment later he returned.  He had an embarrassed look on his face and a jar with a lid in his hand.  "I found this by the road in town.  I was hiding it in the barn until spring, I was going to pick flowers and put them in it for Ma's birthday.

Coins in a Jar
A tale about thankfulness
"Well, you can still pick flowers in the spring, "Ma smiled, "but for now let's use it to hold this rich bounty."  The money jar was placed in the center of the table.

Each day after studies and farm work the kids would walk the dirt roads in their bare feet to neighboring farms to do whatever work they could, and each evening they brought home some coins to put in the jar on the kitchen table.

Susan and Little Sally put fruit from the family apple and the pear tree in a cart and walked to the edge of town and sold them to people passing by.

Excitement grew as the jar began to fill.  "I wonder who will get it and what will they do?" pondered Billy.

"I bet it is the Browns they have so many kids." replied John.

Susan shook her head," I think it must be the Andrews or the Carters.

"Maybe it is someone who doesn't have food, or a bed to share like we do,"  said Sally.  "It must be sad.  Maybe they go to bed hungry every night."

"Or maybe they are thankful."  No one saw Pa come in.  "Maybe they count their blessings."

"What if they don't have any blessings?" Little Sally asked.

Pa sat down on the rough bench and scooped up Sally in his lap.  "Everyone has blessings, Sally.  Maybe not so much as we do but they have blessings.  You must not set your heart on what you have or what you don't have, but set your heart on God, he is the one who gives these things to you.  Whatever He gives you, or doesn't give you, is the best because He loves you."

The days continued and so did the efforts of the kids who diligently swept storefronts, cleaned barns, painted walls, cleaned stalls, and attics.  Each evening more coins were dropped into the jar.

One day after dinner the coins were so many that the lid would not screw on.  "I think it is time to take the jar to the pastor for the offering," said Pa.

"Can we do it tomorrow?" Little Sally exclaimed.  "I can't wait until Sunday service to give the offering."

The next day, each one took a turn carrying the jar as they walked the dusty road. The low sun gave a yellow light on the stone steps leading to the pastor's door.  John knocked.  "Come in." was the cheerful response.

"What do we have here?  It is the Hanson children.  Is everything all right?"

"Oh, yes sir," said Sally.

Pastor held the door open wide.  "Come in and sit down."

"We have brought something for the special offering for the poor family." offered Billy as they entered.  "We did jobs on neighbor's farms and in town for it."

"How did you hear about the special offering?"

"Well. I know it was wrong to eavesdrop,"  Blurted out Billy.  "But I couldn't help it.  When I picked up the ball I overheard the grown-ups discussing it, and we all wanted to help."

"So, this is for the special offering for the poor family?"  The pastor looked at the jar full of coins as Billy held it out to him.

"Yes," said John.  "We worked at odd jobs and put the money in the jar.  We couldn't wait till Sunday, so we brought it just as soon as the jar was full."

"Thank You."  Pastor leaned back in his soft chair; his eyes staying on the jar.  "It is a good thing you came tonight. I have a meeting with the deacons about this offering and you have just brought the completion of the gift. Thank you."

"Oh. There is another thing." John said.  "Could we get the jar back it is the only one we have."

"Of course.  Could I get it to you later?  I do not have time to empty it now. Now run along and get home before it gets too dark.  It will be cold and I see none of you have a coat."

"Oh, we are used to the cold." boasted Billy.

The pastor walked them to the door and down the steps.  "I would give you a ride but my meeting with the deacons is in a few minutes."

"That's OK, Pastor,"  said John.  We'll walk through the fields anyway. It is shorter.

The purpose of the last few weeks was fulfilled and the kids walked slowly home.  None wanted to go in without coins for the jar.  "You know." mused Sally. "I sort of feel sad now that the money is done and the pastor has it.  Like an adventure is over."

"Don't feel that way," said Matthew.  "We did a good thing and God sees it."

As they neared their home in the falling twilight Matthew was the first to notice something strange.  Beside their house was a car.  "What is that?" Matthew asked.

"It is a car. I think it belongs to the pastor,"  said Susan.

"Oh. He must have brought the jar back."  Matthew said hopefully.

They heard men's voices, and Ma sobbing softly.

With wide eyes, the five children slowly crept through the door.  Inside the small room, the pastor and the deacons were standing around the table.  Dad sat on the bench with his hands flat on the table, he was staring at something in front of him.  Mom stood behind him with one hand on his shoulder the other wiping tears from her face.

On the table was the jar.  It was full of large bills.

Jar of money, Illustration for a story
about thankfulness.

(C) Adron Dozat
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