The Difference 50 Cents Made

For the Week of December 9, 2002
by Rubel Shelly

The letter appeared in the "Dear Abby" column that ran December 2 in our newspaper. You may have seen it about the same time in your own. Donna Masih called my attention to it, and I'm grateful. I think you'll see why very quickly.

Marilyn Irlbacher of Nashua, New Hampshire, wrote the advice columnist and related an event that took place when she was only eight years old. As she tells it, she was "living in a less-than-caring foster home and worried about the 50 cents I owed my school for several lost books." Unless the debt was paid in full, Marilyn would not get her fourth-grade report card.

When she was told that, she fled her school in tears. She didn't have the money. And the thought of asking her foster parents for it terrified her. As she ran down the street, she didn't see the tall stranger in her path until she ran into him.

Here's the rest of the story in her own words . . .

"He asked me what was the matter, and I told him about the 50 cents. He reached into his pocket, took out two quarters, and in a kind voice said, ‘Things will be all right now.'

"Overjoyed to have the money, I paid for the books, got my report card, and shortly thereafter, my mother was able to take me back to live with her.

"The year was 1942; the world was at war. Our state of Florida was still in a depression, and that 50 cents was a lot of money in those days.

"Abby, to this day, every act of generosity I perform, every dime I give to a cause, is in honor of that man. I don't remember his face. I only recall his brown shoes, which I saw first when I ran into him. His kindness to a crying child made all the difference in my life."

I wrote recently about the "Seeds of Kindness" project. If you haven't read about it, please go to soon. Stories are beginning to come in about the sort of no-strings-attached generosity it is intended to foster. Hundreds of people are using $100 bills to ease a little hurt and give a lot of hope. Marilyn Irlbacher's story illustrates the difference a personal touch makes.

Don't have a $100 bill to share? Then how about one hour of your time? A friend told me last week about using an evening to clean off the table, wash the dishes, and let his wife relax. When he revived her, she thought it was wonderful!

To show loving concern for others is to enter the very heart of God.