From the time you walk in
the front door of the church
on Sunday morning, you know
that it is coming. Even earlier,
it occurred to you:
There will be a time, within
the hour, when the preacher
will pause for the commercial announcement,
using humor or pathos or a simple plea
to help pay for the heat, and the ushers
will, like apparitions, appear from the back of the room
bearing baskets, or plates, or maybe they’ll actually
pass an honest-to-God hat.
From your seat toward the back
you’ll watch the ritual unfold, and the
inexorable approach of the invitation.
Some will frantically scratch out checks,
seemingly shocked at the suddenness
of the basket’s arrival. Others will
quietly place pocket change against the bottom,
turning their heads toward the windows,
guiding neighbors’ eyes to follow,
creating a momentary misdirection
from their self-perceived poverty.
Reaching for your wallet you find
two ones, a five, and — unexpected —
a twenty, and you’re confronted
with the calculus of your own generosity.
How much is enough? What can I afford?
How will I pay for brunch? Could these
wrinkled bills possibly be the currency
of my redemption?
With just a row to go now, you wonder:
How might my life be changed if I had
the courage to hand it all over? Not just
the cash, but my credit cards, too.
And the PIN to my 401(k), and the keys
to my house and my car?
Each day, with the sun, the ushers rise
and approach with the collection plate,
asking what our offering will be.