Who Can Help Me Name This Chapter?

Friends, I have a dilemma.  It has come to my attention that the working title for Chapter 16 of Finding God in Ordinary Time is problematic.  To those who get it, it makes perfect sense.  To those who do not, it’s baffling.  (This is not what I’m shooting for.)

Here’s the chapter, which I originally intended to share on this last Sunday of Winter Ordinary Time simply as a nice segue to Lent, with its invitation to almsgiving.  At the end I will tell you what I called it, and ask for your suggestion.  Obviously, a free signed copy is yours if you come up with the winning chapter title!


Chapter 16:  Finding God in . . . ?

How do we decide what to give?

In my years as a campus minister I’ve been fortunate to travel to Mexico City with students many times. One of the problems for the tourist there (as for urban pedestrians just about anywhere) is how to respond to people who are begging. So often in Mexico City I encountered tiny crones sitting on the sidewalk, wrapped in dirty blankets, heads down in sleep or shame, one calloused hand extended for passersby to see. They gave no accusing stare to those who passed them by; they didn’t confront us with a fast-talking pitch or a conscience-prodding sign. They simply sat immobile for hours, murmuring  heart-wrenching blessings to strangers who paused to press a coin into their palm.

On my first visit I often found myself unprepared to give: the airport currency exchange had doled out maddeningly large bills, difficult to break even at small local shops. And so, the next time, I secured a supply of ten-peso coins. Each was worth about a dollar; they were easy to carry in my pocket (unlike bills that had to be fished from my travel wallet) and satisfying to bestow. A nice solid coin. I roamed about the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe like a trippy fairy godmother, never passing one of those dear old souls without giving a coin and receiving a blessing in return.

But was that praiseworthy? If I compare giving to not giving, sure. But if I compare what I had, even on my person, to what those ladies needed . . . ugh. The logical part of me protests that even had I emptied my bank account to help those women (that is, sold everything I had and given to the poor), I might have had treasure in heaven, but there would still be an awful lot of poor widows in Mexico City. Yet that observation, however true, does nothing to uncomplicate my feelings about my peso-giving choices.

Nor should it.

Whenever students and I talk about this, I first make sure they understand that the systemic and sociological factors at work in poverty are vast and complicated, but can be addressed. (Perhaps one of them will graduate and do just that.) Then I explain the concept of tithing, and encourage them to commit to supporting charities that address underlying causes as well as immediate needs. I let them know that, whatever they decide, the important thing is that they respond thoughtfully.

And finally I take away any tidy bow they were hoping to tie on the lesson by telling them this: From a spiritual perspective, we should never grow comfortable with the discomfort of others—even when we feel like we’re down to our last two coins.


Well there you have it.  My original title?  Finding God in the Widow’s Mite.

It you can think of a title that captures the message of this chapter more clearly, please leave it in the comment section below.  The only “rule” is that it has to start with the words “Finding God” and then the preposition of your choice.

That’s the end of my sneak peeks for a while; liturgical Ordinary Time returns in fifteen weeks.  I am going to try to keep up with the Sunday blog posts, though; this has been fun!  I anticipate some significant book announcements in the next few weeks, so stay tuned, and do follow this site if you’re not already.

May each of your ordinary days be extraordinarily blessed!

 – Christine

14 thoughts on “Who Can Help Me Name This Chapter?

  1. George David Allen says:

    Hmmmm. There’s a kinda-sorta similar exploration of hope-in-action I just read the other day. In Rebecca Solnit’s book HOPE IN THE DARK, what’s being discussed is how folks will charge into natural-disaster areas, placing themselves in potential harm’s way armed with the pragmatic realization that while it will be impossible for them to save everybody, it might still be possible for them to save somebody.

    Also coming to mind is the movie THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, a Susan favorite, and the character she really liked, Mel Gibson’s sidekick Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt’s Academy Award-winning gender-switching performance!). He has a line in the movie that had always really stuck with her:

    “Well, I support the view that you just don’t think about the major issues. You do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you. Add your light to the sum of light.”

    We had some interesting conversations around that line. I find Kwan’s philosophy to be admirable but maybe incomplete in his saying you “don’t” think about the “major issues.” For me that’s tied into the part of your message here that deals with addressing underlying causes versus (or in addition to) immediate needs.

    Anyhow, to me this chapter seems to deal with the “problems” of thinking about what you can do and what you should do, brought up by the exchange of this single coin between one hand and another. So the first thing that pops into my mind is to call it:

    “Finding God in a Coin-Pressed Palm”

    (If you wanna get Shakespearean in feeling you could write it “Coin-Press’d,” ha!).

    I use “a” deliberately, rather than “her,” for example, because I would mean to imply the “finding” is located both in the coin as you grasp it in your own hand, and then the coin as it is pressed into the widow’s upturned hand. There’s of course the whole use of “Palm” too (as your previous commenter also used), which could signal somebody to connect it to Palm Sunday….though I really can’t account for how that might neatly intersect with any perfect relevance. If somebody looked hard enough I’m sure they could draw a line from here to there (’cause that ALWAYS happens in art, as you know).

    So like they say in AMADEUS, there it is. Honestly it’s a little difficult to maybe make the best selection of chapter title without the perspective of seeing the other chapter titles in relation to it (at least that’s how I would think about it, in addition to how it connects to the chapter itself), but there’s my two cents. Or one cent. Hey, if I’m not the lucky winner of the contest element of this post, I might just get the Honorable Mention for Lengthiest Blather Award! Cheers 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ortizat says:

    Hi. How ‘bout

    – Finding God in the face of the poor?

    or

    – Finding God in an Outstretched Hand?

    So nice to read this again and think about your strides to publication!

    Hope you’re feeling better.

    Peace,
    ato

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rose says:

    I loved reading this and being in Mexico City with you will always one of my happiest memories. A couple of ideas for you and I will think about this some more:
    – Finding God in las limosnas (Spanish word for alms). You might want to check that this word is used in Mexico (as opposed to primarily in Spain).
    – Finding God in between the asking and the offering. Your piece reminded me of a quote by Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Though the last sentence in the quote there doesn’t apply so much to what you are writing about (though maybe it kind of does), you wrote about the space in between someone asking for help and how we react. I really get that because I feel like I have often found God in that space too. Much love to you. ❤

    Like

      • Jeffrey Draine says:

        After years of working in areas where I encounter poverty, street poverty in particular–I’ve eventually become more confident in an answer to this persistent question. Basically its this question back–“What’s it to you? Most people ask as a way of figuring out their own stuff of how they as in individual SHOULD respond. When really the discomfort is the fact of poverty, especially the very specific poverty directly around them, and the fact that no individual act puts even the slightest dent in it at any level. So the most truthful and honest reality for me is that we each make our own deal with this discomfort, and get used to being asked this question. But more importantly, as Christine points out here–we should not get used to the fact that we are made uncomfortable by this reality. The person begging I pass many days at 10th and Berks has made his deal with the world. flying his flag (cardboard sign asking for money) is his racket. He has his racket just as certainly as I do as an social work professor or the guy with the corner suite. And 2 out of 3 have the space to figure out how to ignore it if it what they want to do.

        My suggested title: Whats YOUR Racket? What is the solution proposed by Jesus? Take up your cross? follow? Now that begging question looks more manageable.

        Like

  4. tstolz0429 says:

    ​I love this challenge!

    – Finding God in the Ordinary – Finding God in Discomfort – Finding God in the Discomfort of Others

    You write so beautifully! ​

    On Sun, Feb 11, 2018 at 7:29 AM, Christine Marie Eberle wrote:

    > Christine Eberle posted: “Friends, I have a dilemma. It has come to my > attention that the working title for Chapter 16 of Finding God in Ordinary > Time is problematic. To those who get it, it makes perfect sense. To > those who do not, it’s baffling. (This is not what I’m shootin” >

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Peg Moran says:

    Finding God in Charity
    Finding God in Giving
    Finding God in a Ten-Peso Coin
    I like the third one and it fits your kind of titles. But what scripture will you use for it, or are you keeping what you have?
    I love reading these chapters.

    Like

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