How can small change make a big change in anyone’s life?
We at St. Thomas believe it is important to serve not only the local community, but to be connected to and serve the global community as well. But being a small parish, especially when Rev. Betsy first arrived, the challenge was to create a global mission without placing too much burden on a small group of parishioners.
Then Rev. Betsy had a thought: what if we collected the spare change that turns up in piles on our dressers, at the bottom of our handbags, on the floor of the car, under the sofa cushions? What kind of impact could we make with that? We decided to gather it up and bring it in every Sunday during Lent; during Holy Week, many of us skipped a meal and donated the money the food would have cost. The result? We collected more than $500 for a mission called Carpenter’s Kids, and it was enough to support 10 children’s incidental schooling needs – uniforms, school supplies, shoes and socks, and breakfast.
Today, our spare coins are committed to “Change the Babies”, a program that supports the Mampong Babies Home, a mission of the Diocese Kumasi in Ghana. 40 motherless children are cared for in a loving, nurturing group home visited by Rev. Fisher and her family in 2013. These children are cared for and loved there until age 5 or 6 when they are then returned to their extended families in their village. But for those first five years, the Babies Home is their world. And a loving, nurturing world it is! Excellent caregivers make small amounts of money go a long way: food, medicines, clothes, and the occasional treat. Together with Episcopal Churches in western Massachusetts, we drop coins in a glass jar near the altar as we come forward for Communion. Gathered together, those coins make a life-changing difference. We have made a five year commitment to support one child with food and medicine. The cost of that support is approximately $1500 per year. That’s how much loose change we collect!
For us, the program has been a reminder that we can always find a way to help when there is a great need, even when we’re feeling tapped out. Those of us who’ve become unemployed or who are on a fixed income or are facing the financial pressures of raising our own families can still find a few coins each week. Others have found creative ways to give more: one 12-year-old, having spent several years collecting change in a big jar, decided that having filled it was satisfaction enough, and proudly poured $118 worth of coins into the jar. Another couple contributed their penny-ante poker winnings. A woman who visited St. Thomas in the summer sent a surprise check at the end of the year: having heard about the program, she started collecting her own change, and sent us the result.
That’s how small change makes a big difference: by the exponential, transformational power that comes when we put our efforts together, and God smiles.