The Ten Dollar Challenge

6 12 2009

Yesterday I featured Billy Coffey in my first “Twelve Days of Community” tribute. I also mentioned that Billy (in cahoots with the ever-sassy Katdish) masterminded the Ten Dollar Challenge. You can learn more about (and join!) the challenge by clicking the green box above, but in a nutshell, it’s simply this: Set aside ten dollars and keep your eyes open for an opportunity to bless a stranger, with no strings attached. There are no hard-fast rules. The gift may be given anonymously or not. It may go to someone with clear financial need or simply someone God places in your path and prompts you to bless. In my case, the “ten dollars” didn’t even take the form of cash. And it wasn’t until hours after I gave it that I realized the person I’d been keeping my eyes open for had slipped inconspicuously into my life, touched my heart, and gone away with her gift held tightly in her hands and tears of gratitude shining in her eyes.

Thursday night I spoke at a community-wide Christmas banquet in Pineland, Texas. (You can read about what I shared here, if you’re interested.) It was a lovely evening with festive decorations, delicious food, and live music provided by country singer, Tracy Byrd. Afterward I signed copies of Parting the Waters.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m always amazed by the stories people tell me when they hand me their copy to sign. No matter where I go, in groups of any size, there will be well-dressed, smiling, functioning people who’ve suffered in ways I can’t begin to imagine. Isn’t that the way it is, though? We can easily paralyze ourselves with irrational fear, but we can’t imagine the grace God gives when tragedy becomes reality. Grace defies imagination. And it changes everything.

The first wave had moved past the book table, and in the lull, a petite woman slipped beside me and leaned over. “I just want you to know, I loved what you shared, and I’m going to order your book. I would buy one tonight, but I didn’t bring any money with me.”

I smiled at her and said, “Thanks! That’s fine. You can get it on Amazon or other major online outlets.”

She kept her eyes on mine. “I lost my son,” she began, then stopped.

I know that look. It’s the must-hold-myself-together-in-public look. I waited.

I guess she decided she couldn’t trust herself to say more. After a few moments she smiled sheepishly. “Anyway, I really look forward to reading your book. I know the circumstances are different, but I definitely need . . .”

I grabbed a book off the pile and opened to the title page. “I’m going to sign this to you. What’s your first name?”

“Oh, no! You don’t have to do that . . .”

“I want to. I really do. I want you to have a signed copy. You can give the money to Judy sometime, and she’ll get it to me later.”

Her eyes shone as she watched me write her name. “Thank you so much!” she said. “This will be my Christmas present to myself.”

When I handed her the book, she actually grasped it to her heart. And mine broke.

“You know what?” I said. “Forget the money. This isn’t your Christmas present to yourself. It’s my Christmas present to you.”

I don’t know what she saw in my eyes at that moment, but in hers I saw a mirror. I saw a mother’s loss redeemed by a God who knows what it’s like to watch a first-born son suffer and die.

It wasn’t until hours later as I drifted off to sleep that I made the connection. When I speak I sell my books at a discount.

Ten dollars.

At first I wondered if it really counted for the challenge. After all, cash is versatile. A book, not so much. You can’t use it to buy groceries or put gas in the car. It’s simply words making thoughts making story.

And yet, sometimes God meets us in story. And when He does, we emerge from the pages changed. Renewed. Healed.

May our great Redeemer take my little gift of “ten dollars” and turn it to gold. And may He do the same with yours, to the glory of His name. Amen.



20 responses

6 12 2009

Lovely and generous.

6 12 2009
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

Beautiful story, Jeanne. God bless you.

6 12 2009
Billy Coffey

This managed to both break my heart and give me joy. What a wonderful story, Jeanne. And the amazing thing, the holy and right and blissful thing, is that by your act you were just as blessed as that lovely woman.

Did it really count for the challenge? Oh my, yes. This is what the challenge is all about.

6 12 2009

Oh, fine…you made me cry! That was just awesome, Jeanne!

6 12 2009
Doug Spurling

Beautiful. Thank you.

6 12 2009

Thanks so much for your kind words, Maureen, Patricia, and Doug. And welcome to The View From Here. Nice to meet you!

I’m honored by your responses, Billy and Katdish. Thanks for providing the challenge. Only God knows how far the blessings will spread as people pass along the gifts they receive. Beautiful indeed!

6 12 2009
Catherine Burns

Beautiful story, Jeanne. I am praying for that sweet lady right now. May God lead her through to a place of peace and joy.

And thanks for the inspiration about the Ten Dollar Challenge. I am wanting to add the button to my blog and wondering if I can make it the 1500 Tenge Challenge. 🙂

6 12 2009

Thanks for the comment and especially for the prayers, Catherine.

Great idea! Maybe if you make it the 1500 Tenge Challenge it will sweep through Kazakhstan. Wow. What if people converted it to every currency and it covered the globe? How cool would that be? I say go for it! 🙂

6 12 2009

Wow – what a great story you were able to share. It’s a great reminder that the most simple acts of giving can have an incredible effect on others.

6 12 2009
deb@talk at the tabl

Incredible story. I’ve missed a few posts here, but look forward to reading in the morning .
Here is my first blog feature , for you ,Jeanne. Thank you.

6 12 2009

Deb, I don’t even know what to say. My heart is overflowing with gratitude and awe. Thank you for taking Jacob’s words and turning them into messages of hope scattered like bread on the water. I have no doubt God will multiply your offering. What a beautiful, selfless gift.

Much love,

7 12 2009
Peter P


That’s what I love seeing God doing! Working through us, doing something that we don’t even notice until it’s already happened!

Awesome story, Jeanne.

Thank you for sharing!

7 12 2009
Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

Wonderful story.

These gifts .. they do become like gold in the hands of a Savior, don’t they?

Bless you, Jeanne, for your giving heart.

7 12 2009
Warren Baldwin

Great story, and great heart on your part. You’ll always remember this inciednt more than any where you actually sold a copy. You gave more than a book; you gave hope and love.

7 12 2009

I love stories like this. I’ve made several worship CD’s and given out many like this as people come to talk and they just need the encouragement. Maybe we’ll all get back to the truth that it’s always more blessed to give than receive.

7 12 2009
deb@talk at the tabl

You are most welcome. And I have received what others have scattered. It matters. It happens. Thank you, truly. There was much wisdom you shared in the book, and while I’ve heard it before, I was , at last, free of some burdens. We all have our stories, but hopefully good can come out of passing them along , sharing the hope.

7 12 2009
Angie Muresan

I’ve been just sitting here for the last several minutes, my tears pouring down my face. God’s love to me, to us, continues to amaze me daily. Here via Deb @Talk at the Table (her words are a blessing in my life). I am so glad she led me to you.

7 12 2009

Many thanks, Annie, Peter, Jennifer, Warren, Jason, and Angie. I’m honored by your comments. I love the way this sort of project not only inspires giving, it also builds community as we share our stories with one another. I’m so delighted you all stopped by, whether this blog is a regular stop for you or not. Welcome back any time!

Love, Jeanne

8 12 2009

That is an amazing story of giving! You made her smile because of a small gift…but you made Someone smile even bigger. To God be the glory! Have a blessed Christmas.

10 12 2009
Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Jeanne, What a lovely story! I’m so glad you shared it.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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