I remember an old story about a 10-year-old boy who went into a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. The boy asked, “How much is an ice cream sundae?” The waitress replied, “Fifty cents.” ( It is an old story!)
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. People were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she said, brusquely.
The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.
When the waitress came back, she held back tears as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. He couldn’t have the sundae, because he wanted to have enough left to leave her a tip.
I want to write about the need for you to count your coins and so you can decide how much of your money you will ‘place neatly beside the empty dish.’
Most of the money you give will be used to keep the staff, all of whom are here to serve. Our canvass team is providing the naked details. The bottom line is that we need more money next year than we got last year. The budget needs to be balanced.
Without an increase in pledges – promises to contribute beginning July 1st, our fiscal year – we’ll have to cut staff. Our congregation is thriving, in great measure because of the staff who serve in a variety of ways. If you’re paying attention you know what happens here seven days a week, with Ed’s amazing music program, the religious education work done by Perry, Jamie and Lily, David’s social justice work, John and Jan in the office, and the dedicated work of our sexton, Bobby.
No one is suggesting that you give more than you can afford, but a responsible pledge may mean deciding between a sundae and a plain dish of ice cream. The boy in that story made his decision, and the decision he made added fifteen cents to the waitress’s tips for the day, but it also added something less tangible, but more important, to his life.
“Who does a good deed is instantly ennobled,” is the way Emerson put it. How would you describe it? What is that thing, in you? It’s about generosity. Not money, only. But a way of living one’s life, a way of creating one’s life, of becoming the kind of person you want to be, and need to be.
I hope, for your sake and for the sake of our congregation that you’ll make a generous and responsible pledge to help support our work in the coming year. The staff – the waiters and waitresses who are serving you – depend on it.
On their behalf, and mine, I want to thank you. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
An allegory is a story in which characters represent abstract ideas or principles. Here’s an interesting allegory about two characters, Truth and Story. Truth walked into a village, naked. The local inhabitants started cursing at him, calling him names, and they chased him out of the village.
Truth walked along the road to the next town. They spit at him and cursed and drove him out of town. He walked, lonely and sad, down the empty road, until he reached the next town, still hoping to find someone who was happy to see him, who would embrace Truth with open arms.
So he walked into the third town, this time in the middle of the night, hoping that dawn would find the townsfolk happy to see him in the light of a new day. But as soon as the townsfolk’s eyes lit upon him they ran to their homes in fear of him.
Truth ran off and hid out in the woods, crying, and cleaning off the garbage that had been thrown at him. Later he returned to the edge of the woods, when he heard laughter and gaiety, singing and applause. He saw the townsfolk applauding as STORY entered the town. They brought out fresh meats and soups and pies and pastries and offered them all to STORY, in his colorful costume as he smiled and enjoyed their love and appreciation.
Come twilight, TRUTH was sulking and sobbing at the edge of the woods. The townsfolk disdainfully ignored him, but STORY came out to see for himself. TRUTH told STORY how all the townsfolk mistreated him, how sad and lonely he was, how much he wanted to accepted and appreciated.
STORY looked TRUTH in the eyes and said, “Of course they all reject you. Nobody wants to look at the naked truth.”
So STORY gave TRUTH brilliant, beautiful costumes to wear. And they walked into the town together, TRUTH with STORY. And the townspeople greeted them with warmth and love and appreciation, for TRUTH wrapped in STORY’s clothing is a beautiful thing and easy to behold.
And ever since then, TRUTH and STORY travel together, and they are always accepted and loved. And that’s the way it was and the way it is and the way it will always be.
“We make a living by what we do; we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” Albert Einstein
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.” Alexander Pope