Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Value of $2: Spare Change in the Car & a Lesson Learned

A few months ago, I was rattled by some spare change. Bare with me as I give you a some background for the story.  I belong to a group called Gathering for Hope, North Shore (GFHNS Facebook page). We are a group of women who meet monthly to learn, pray, and act in response to the various forms of oppression and injustice affecting women and girls worldwide.   The group proudly and passionately supports Amirah in its mission to restore women survivors of human trafficking.  As I was driving to the monthly meeting, I realized I had forgotten to bring my $2 contribution to the group’s fund that will eventually be donated to nonprofit(s) empowering women both locally and worldwide. The usual monthly contribution is $2, signifying the amount of money that roughly half (48%) of the world’s poor subsist on each day (2011 world-population-data-sheet).

So, in a haphazard search, I began to rifle through my car for spare change as I drove. Lo and behold, after searching the compartment between the front seats and the ashtray, I came up with $2, plus a little extra.  Breathing a sigh of relief and feeling pleasantly surprised that I would be able to contribute after all, that’s when it hit me: I have more money in my car than the majority of the world’s poor live on each day. Wow…that thought just completely sucked away the pleasure of my serendipitous $2 find.  The world’s poorest are often those most vulnerable to traffickers; they are desperate for income and the promise of a better life.  If I were a destitute female living in a situation with no resources or family support, I could very well be exploited by human trafficking.

As I pondered these thoughts, I held that small collection of coins in my hand for the remaining 20 minutes of my car ride. I let the heaviness of the moment put its full weight on me and felt my grip on the coins tighten.  While the coins made their temporary indentation in my hand, I wanted the profound significance of this small amount of change to leave a permanent mark on my heart and mind.

I asked myself some hard questions for the remainder of that ride:
- What am I doing with my resources? I am not “rich” by American standards, but I am classified as wealthy when compared to those living on $2 or less per day. What am I doing with my “wealth?” Not just my monetary wealth, but my wealth of time and abilities. This issue of human trafficking has forever embedded itself in my heart, and I want to live my life in a way that meaningfully contributes to this cause. Am I doing all I can with what I have to make a difference?

- What other creative ways can I find additional funds to donate to the fight against human trafficking?  Ok, so I can scrounge up $2 of spare change in my car, but what can I give up sacrificially?  What if I give up one cup of coffee from my favorite coffee shop for the week and use that money to become a monthly donor to Amirah? That's hardly much of a sacrifice, but it's a small start. The average price of a cup of coffee in America (depends on where you buy it, of course) ranges from $1.38 to $2.50 (or more!) per cup. Do the math and you'll come up with roughly $10-20 per month.  Just $5 per month makes you part of a significant support base covering the monthly expenses of Amirah's safe home.   What if we all saved that money so easily spent in the blink of an eye during one visit to our favorite restaurant, coffee shop, retail store, etc. and became a part of something bigger than ourselves with that money instead?

As I pulled into the parking lot for the meeting, I finally relaxed my firm grip on the handful of coins.  I knew this small amount of spare change had given me far more than I had searched for: a deep, indelible memory that will stay with me for a lifetime and spur me on to do more.

I just love life’s unexpected lessons.

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