She Gave All She Had To Live On

Part I “My mom wanted me to give you this,” Jasmine* said as she handed me a five dollar bill.  I asked what it was for and she said it was a donation for SOS from her mom, Terry.  “Thanks,” I said as she turned from my front door to walk back to her house.  As I thought about this kind gesture from Terry, I realized the value of this gift was far more than $5.

One week earlier I helped this family get a new sofa bed for their youngest son to sleep on because the one he had been sleeping on was broken.  When you’re a single mom with 4 kids and an 850 square foot house, not everyone gets a bed.  Because I knew Terry and wanted to affirm her dignity, I asked her how much she could pay for a new couch instead of giving it to her completely free.  She said she only had $11.  Although the couch cost much more than $11, I asked her if she could give $5 toward the price of the couch.  She said she was happy to give all $11, but I didn’t want to take the last of her money.  So she gave me $5.

Fast forward one week – I get a $5 donation from her for SOS.  Although SOS had done no work on her home yet, she was slated for us to repair her roof the coming summer.  She was just thankful for the work that we would do and wanted to give a donation.  I started thinking about the math – a week before she said all she had was $11.  She gave $5 toward the purchase of her new couch leaving her with $6.  One $5 donation later and that leaves her with $1.

Now granted, I know that it is possible, even likely, that she got more money between buying the couch and making the donation, but the point still remains – a $5 gift for Terry is a huge sacrifice.  Especially because I know she is on a very fixed income.  She doesn’t have a savings account or a 401(k).  She doesn’t own investment property or stocks.  When she says she only has $11, she really means it.  When I say I only have $11, what I mean is that I only have $11 cash or $11 in my wallet.  But I’ve got plenty in checking, in savings, in my 401(k), in college savings accounts, etc.

I can’t comprehend that kind of generosity.  Many would even say that it’s foolish.  She has kids to feed, light bills to pay.  How can she afford to give that kind of money to charity?  Isn’t that foolish?  But is Terry really foolish?  Or am I the foolish one?  ( be continued)

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

This post is part of a series.  Click here to view Part II.