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A Child’s Humble Gift

The purity of a child’s heart can inspire adults to accomplish amazing, unimaginable things. Here’s a beautiful story, beautiful … and absolutely true. It was first published in the fall, 2002 issue of my newsletter, Reaching Out, although it’s been told many times.

In the early 1900s, a young girl stood crying outside a small church. She had been turned away because it was “too crowded.”

“I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. He saw her shabby and unkempt appearance and guessed the reason. He gently took her by the hand, escorted her inside, and found a place for her in a class.

57 Cents
The child was so happy he found room for her. That night she went to bed thinking of children who had no place to worship.

Two years later, this same child, Hattie May Wiatt, lay dead in a local tenement building. The parents sent for the kind-hearted pastor, asking if he would handle the final arrangements.

As her little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found; it looked like it has been rummaged from a trash heap. Inside were 57 cents and a note scribbled in a child’s handwriting: “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.”

She had been saving this offering for two years. As the pastor tearfully read the note, he realized what he must do.

A Dream Became Reality
The following Sunday morning, the pastor carried the little purse and the note with him to the pulpit. He told of her story of unselfish love and devotion. The pastor challenged the church deacons to get busy on finding a way to make the girl’s gift become a reality.

(To get things rolling, the pastor turned the 57 cents into 57 pennies and offered each of them for sale as a fundraiser. Not only did this first gesture raise about $250 for the project, 54 of the 57 pennies were returned to the pastor.)

A newspaper learned of this story and published it. A local realtor read it and made the little church a marvelous offer. He promised that, if they could raise the money to build the church, he would sell them a parcel of land to build it on … for 57 cents.

Church members dug deeply into their own pocketbooks, plus checks arrived in the mail from everywhere. They eventually raised $250,000, a huge sum of money in those days.

Ultimately, it was a child’s love that created a building for what is now Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia. It seats 3,300 in the sanctuary, and the Sunday School building can handle all who wish to attend.

The inspiration of the girl’s gift and the influence of her remarkable pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, essentially accomplished the impossible. (Dr. Conwell went on to become the first president of Temple University, but that’s another story.)

Not a bad return on 57 cents.###

May 10, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, Educators, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , | Leave a comment