A Widow’s Mi(gh)te

I have been wandering a writing wilderness. My human dustiness has fogged my brain and smudged my creative vision for many months now.

A few weeks ago I experienced an unexpected stirring of my imagination. Some friends and I were gathered together near a park in my city. A wonderful water feature, a fountain with a pool, was within sight. One of my friends offered an aside about the fountain, a bit of wisdom she carries with her from her mother. “To steal coins from the fountain is to steal someone else’s wish.”

Transformed by a Tale of Radical Generosity

I didn’t think too much about her comment at the time. It resurfaced later for me during a church book study. My study group is reading Amy Jill-Levine’s book, Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week.  She devotes a chapter in that book to the story we often refer to as “the widow’s mite” (Luke 21 and Mark 12). A powerful feature of this story emerges in the way Jesus asks the disciples to see the widow and not look away.

The ancient story is infused with radical generosity and hospitality. It calls us to see and acknowledge the woman who gives what she has. The story also calls us to treat her with dignity and honor her worth in a soul-depleting society.

Emerging from the Wilderness

Reading this story through the lenses of Holy Week, as Jill-Levine does, and then hearing my friend’s inherited proverb about coins in a fountain lulled me out of my writing wilderness. Reading and hearing from a different perspective also nudged me to think anew about our rituals of giving and receiving what is given within our worship and communal contexts. We all have gifts to share as well as wisdom to receive as we continue to grow together into what it means to be God’s Beloved Community.

I offer this desert-dusty poem as one outcome of my reflection on “the widow’s mite,” and I invite all of us to emerge from whatever wildernesses we are in to share what we can and receive from each other with open hearts, minds, and hands. Sometimes, it seems, we have wishes to share together, standing side by side, and that requires of us love and grace.

a widow’s mi(gh)te

“don’t take those coins”
mama says in her scolding voice
as the girl dips into the wishing fountain
toward a sun-polished silver orb
the girl jerks her hand back
hides it in her jeans pocket
peers side-eyed into the sparkling water

“you don’t want to steal the wishes
folks whispered into that old pocket change
if only alice would get well if only
raymond knew i love him if only
a nickel for passing tomorrow’s
math test a silver dollar to see daddy
one last time a dime for snow this
christmas a quarter for the violence
all of the violence all of the violence
to end and who wants to
carry any of that home”

the girl squints at the magical water-spray
and then just over there where silver curls
feather in the march wind but the woman
seems not to notice as she searches through
a well-used black purse “she looks lonely”

the girl stuffs her hands deep in her pockets
digs out a blue lego the yellow eraser she
found in her desk in mrs harvey’s 2nd grade
reading class grandpas old car key a piece
of red yarn and two old brown pennies

she reaches out to the woman
“one for me and one for you and we can
wish at the same time mama always says
be careful what you wish for” and
the two of them old and young pitch
a single cent
each coin somersaulting
into the water slipping
through the surface down
down on top of
nickels dimes quarters
woman and girl watch
till the ripples quiet enough to
mirror their faces
side by side






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