Mass was over. The organist struck a chord to signal the introduction of the dismissal hymn- 26. Mark flipped the pages of his hymnal to it.
The choir led “Bless the Lord oh my soul, and never forget His gifts”.
He joined others singing, a part of him trying to recount the Lord’s gifts. Although he had a job, things were hard presently. His mother’s hospital bills for her surgery had made a neat hole in his pocket, so plans of moving out of his parents’ house and into his own apartment were on hold; feeding at home was becoming a problem. However his mother’s operation had been successful so…
“Bless the Lord oh my soul, He fills our life with good”.
Bringing himself back to the present, he saw that people had begun exiting the church. He went to an exit point and joined the crowd slowly making their way out.
Bang bang! “Please help the poor!” He had just come out when he heard the voice. Although there were many of them standing at almost every corner of the church banging small wooden boxes and calling on people to help the poor, that particular voice was familiar. He went towards the direction of the voice to check.
And he saw her. Standing near a tent and pleading at the top of her voice, “please help the poor!”
Mark was amazed!
He had noticed her earlier when the previous mass ended- before he went in for the just concluded mass. Like the others, she had been begging people to “please help the needy amongst us”, but nobody helped; not one person dropped money into her small box. She had gone from person to person smiling cheerfully, pleading with them; no amount was too little, she told them.
Feeling sorry for her and her fellow box-bangers, he thought of how he would have dropped something into their boxes but for lack of change. All he had were two 1,000 naira notes. 1,000 naira note was too large an amount to give. Even as offering in church.
She started to leave as the next mass began. He saw her take money from the bag that hung from her shoulders and slide into her box. A mixture of awe and pity coursed through him. He hurried to join the mass thinking about how discouraged she probably was and certain she would never beg for the poor ever again.
He had never been more wrong. Here she was, banging again! Such persistence. He propped himself against a car, and waited to see what would happen this time.
Then she started walking towards him. He thought of the two 1000 naira notes in his wallet and smiled- none of those notes would leave his wallet, not today.
She approached him smiling. He smiled back. “Please help the poor, no amount is too much…”
His smile faltered. The lady was laughing embarrassedly, “I meant no amount is too small …” She continued talking but Mark had s topped listening.
No amount is too much. He knew this, he knew that no amount he gave could measure up to God’s mercy and goodness, he had experienced an outpouring of God’s blessings- from his new job to his mother’s recovery from her eye surgery- and he was grateful. Things were hard presently, but it would pass. Besides, a lot more people had it worse; at least he had shelter and a steady source of income. He had life. So why did he find it hard to give when God did not hesitate towards him?
Why did he hesitate?
Moving to where she now stood, He slid his folded 1000 naira note through the narrow slit on her box.
Her features brightened “Ha! Thank you very much, thank you sir!” she went on and on.
Mark hurried on, amused by her reaction and moved by the way her face lit up. He felt a curious happiness that made his heart lighter- the joy of giving! He caught himself humming to the dismissal hymn from earlier, a particular verse playing on his mind “Bless the Lord oh my soul, His promises He keeps”.
Things would definitely get better.