Hard to believe, but it was a conversation I overheard when I was just five that helped form my ideas on giving.  I was hanging around the house one day, trying to amuse myself while my mom hosted the Women’s Fellowship. They had tea and cookies, conversation and that day, a visiting speaker.  I lingered in the next room, curious, and heard the visitor talk about giving to church missions.   She was what was called a ‘circuit rider’, a minister who travels among rural parishes, and I knew my parents admired her. She told the gathered ladies, “Last week I bought a sweater; paid $7 for it.”  [In the 1950’s $7 was a lot.]  She continued, “I didn’t need that sweater; it was just something I saw and wanted.  Afterwards I realized that if I could afford to spend $7 on something I didn’t need, then I could certainly afford $7 for something that was terribly needed.  So I scraped together another $7 and gave it to the mission fund.”

I’m not sure why the sweater story made such an impression on me.  But in fact it became a touchstone:  something that still comes back to me.  What did it say to me at age 5?  That there’s a larger world out there besides my own wants and needs.  That I have a responsibility to think about those other needs.  And that money can do good.

Another touchstone came when I was in my 20’s:  Bill Coffin, former pastor of Riverside Church, used to say “There are two ways to be rich.  One is to have a lot of money.  The other is to have few needs!”  He’d also say that an advantage of having fewer needs is that one can be more generous with others.

So I try to think carefully about my needs.  When I spend money on things I don’t really need (and I do that), the ‘circuit rider’ still asks me what I am doing for others.  And what are my needs, anyway?  Some of the things I value most are not things money can buy, but other important things do cost money.  One of those is having a church that can help me grow into the person God wants me to be.  Plymouth Church is an important part of my life, and I want to make sure it’s there, both for me and for others, including those who haven’t found it yet.  I also want Plymouth to grow in its ability to do God’s work in the world.   So I count Plymouth as an important need, and supporting Plymouth financially as an important response to God’s generosity.

Wendy Reitmeier


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