My mother, Lila Wild Rife, lived to be 99: Her mother, Mabel Riggs Dunfee, lived to be 101. Both women were strong Christians who knew Jesus as their Savior all of their days. When I last saw my mom a week before she passed, her final words were, “Martha, remember the poor.” It struck me as odd because even though she had lived through the Great Depression and had known hard times, she was excellent with her finances and had fared financially well in the end. But I had not known the extent to which she thought about those who had less.
Yet looking back on her life, she must not have forgotten what poverty and rejection felt like, for she often took an entire meal to a person or family from our First Presbyterian Church to help them due to death or illness. I, her teenage assistant, would sit in the back seat holding a jar of warm gravy between my feet while keeping level a cardboard box full of baked pot roast, green beans, and boiled potatoes. She had even thought ahead before her death regarding "remembering the poor," for, instead of flowers at her funeral, she had requested the monies be donated to a West Virginia church shoe fund for impoverished children. I never asked her why she felt so passionate about those who had less; I never really thought to, but I would guess it was because she couldn't forget what it felt like to have little and to be treated as such.
But even though I haven’t worked outside of the home for 35 years and have been a full-time wife, mother, and home school teacher of my five children, how could I remember the destitute? One of the passages I have loved and striven to read daily is Proverbs 31—the ideal wife. It states, “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.” It further adds, “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant.” (RSVCE) The challenge with the linen garments stuff is I HATE to sew, but I do like to knit, so I began knitting simple dishcloths, which required little thought, and I started selling them to people with little thought on my part of the unfortunate. The monies went into my own coffers.
Until I received the Catholic Relief Services Give the Gift of Hope gift catalog last Christmas, 2014.
When I opened that catalog, I was struck by the pictures of farm animals that one could purchase as gifts and send those animals to a poor farm-family overseas. Here I who need nothing could give a gift to someone who has nearly nothing. Well, today, after our Bible study class at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Bainbridge Island, WA, my dream came to fruition. I sold $95 worth of my The Frugal Catholic Dishcloths www.abc-provisions.com, and the class members donated $145 more.
Today, my Bible Study Class and I are the proud donors of two goats and three rabbits sent. With a bit of handiwork on my part and the wonderful generosity of my group, through the Catholic Relief Services, http://crs.org, we are doing exactly what Mom asked me to do. In Mark 14:7, Jesus told us, “For you always have the poor with you….,” but it is easy for me to turn away or hand them a dollar when convenient.
However, that is not what remembering the poor is about; it is about discovering our skills to help.
Maybe your thing isn’t knitting dishcloths. Perhaps it’s doing mission work building houses in Haiti as some in our church are doing. Is it possibly serving food to the poor in your community or visiting the sick? Jesus asks us to think about our talents and use them for His glory so He might bless others through us.
One final note is I have a large porcelain rabbit collection that started as a young girl when Grandmother Mabel gave me my first. Is it a coincidence that I can now use my knitting to give away live rabbits? No, I think that remembering the poor has been built into my heart over the years; because when my passing comes, I know I'll find real bunnies waiting for me in eternity. Why? Because of what Sacred Scripture says. "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:38
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.