Peter and Coleen had been happily married for little more than a year when they announced that they were going to be parents. Everyone was overjoyed and looked forward to the blessed event. When the special day came and Pamela was born, Peter and Coleen were among the happiest parents in the world. But, Papa was enveloped with a special kind of love and pride that only a grandpa could enjoy and he showed it in every precious way he could. Pamela was his first grandchild. He opened an account at the bank for her; in her name, with her mother’s name as a co-account holder. This was an account for her to use to go to college and obviously, he expected her to go to the best college money could afford! It was quite a substantial amount of money.
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Pamela grew graciously and beautifully. She was surrounded by love and developed a warm and caring personality. She was kind and giving, as well as she was an excellent student when she reached her school years. Although it was hard for her mother and father to send her off to school, she soon showed them that their fears were unnecessary. She adapted and thrived in her new social environment.
While Pamela was still quite young, Peter ran into a run of hard luck at work. His job was threatened and he was eventually laid off. His job had been a good one, though. His dear wife, being the astute handler of the finances that she was, had managed to set aside plenty of money they could fall back on until he found work.
This time of unemployment lasted longer than either one of them had anticipated it could. Coleen knew how thin the money was being spread and could also see how anxious Peter had become. So instead of worrying him further, she borrowed from Pamela’s account, reasoning that they needed it to get by. More anxiety might just make it even harder for Peter to find another job.
Eventually, he landed a great job, better than his previous position. After receiving several paychecks, they could relax somewhat and were comforted knowing that they had indeed, ‘made it through the hard times’.
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But, Coleen had begun to see how easy it was to borrow from Pamela’s account, reasoning that they’d be able to replace it when the time came, perhaps little by little, if necessary. After a while, she had to tell herself, “So, okay – Pamela will have to do with a little less than Papa had intended. She’ll still have plenty. Maybe she’ll choose to go to a less expensive college on her own…”
Pamela grew up to become an energetic and fun, yet refined young woman. The three of them were a close-knit family. But, in the middle of her senior year of high school, Peter and Coleen learned that they were to have another child, after all those years. Coleen’s doctor had concerns with this pregnancy, though. Coleen was older, yes, but she had also developed a few medical conditions which could be harmful to her unborn child. Throughout the pregnancy and even through the delivery, the medical bills that accumulated became enormous. Their medical coverage only covered so much of it and the rest would fall to them to pay. They had always maintained a nice standard of living, but the medical bills began to take their toll on their finances. Pamela’s new little sister, Christine, would require special medical attention, but she would be okay. Again, what looked like an unmerciful crisis had Coleen dipping into Pamela’s account.
We’ve all heard the cliché, ‘when it rains, it pours’ and crisis begets crisis. Very soon after Christine was born, Papa fell sick. Collen’s mother feared that this Christmas might be Papa’s last and decided that they should all celebrate Christmas together and make it a very festive party. She asked all of her children to contribute to the feast. One thing she counted on from Coleen was her special cookies. No one else could make them just right. Papa loved them. Almost three weeks before Christmas, she set aside several days for holiday baking and made the biggest batch of cookies she’d ever made. Everyone would be looking forward to them, so she wanted to have more than enough. She boxed them up and set them aside. But, because of the emotional turmoil she was feeling, she began to sneak a cookie from the box now and then.
The day before Christmas, Coleen got the box of cookies down from the cupboard to take to Mama’s house and discovered that she had eaten most of them. She was shocked and pushed aside everything else she had to do to make time to bake some more. She panicked as she discovered that she didn’t have the ingredients she needed. Peter was out with his car, and Pamela had taken hers. She couldn’t get to the store, so she sat down and cried.
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On Christmas Day, she took a small plateful of cookies to the party. Everyone was a little disappointed. They’d expected her to bring a lot of them. Papa smiled at her and patted her on the shoulder.
Later that afternoon, Papa made a little speech, an appeal to his children to get right anything in their lives that was wrong, as well as an expression of the joy they’d brought him. He also told them of the happiness he felt at being able to provide so well for his family over the years. He called Pamela to his side; his pride and joy, his firstborn grandchild. He proudly proclaimed that he'd given each of his grandchildren funds with which to attend the college of their choice, beginning with her. He went on to tearfully say that he intended to hang on long enough to see her use it.
|(photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org)|
But, Papa never woke up the next morning. Coleen was crushed.
The afternoon of the funeral, Pamela addressed the family and reassured them that at college, she’d make Papa proud. Coleen cried all the harder. How could she tell Pamela? The whole family would know about her failures. Oh, what a disappointment this would have been to Papa. And he hadn’t yet opened an account for Christine for Coleen to borrow from to hide what she’d done. To think, the last time she saw her dad, he smiled proudly at her. He had always thought the best of her.
That night, Coleen cried a confession to Peter. When he asked her how much was left, she collapsed on his chest and told him she didn’t know. She begged, “How can I face my family?” He held her and just let her cry until she fell asleep. The next day, they went to the bank together to check it out.
Maybe some people tithe this way. For some of us, it’s a long time from payday until Sunday morning when the offering plate is passed around. With well intentions, we set aside from the money God our Father has provided for us, the portion He requires back. But, sometimes, by Sunday only a small part of it is left. We might feel embarrassed about it. Some might even feel shame to give only a remnant of what is rightfully God’s. Some of us might decide that it’s no use; we just can’t do it right – so why do it at all? We settle for giving a small offering in each week. Some of us live in fear that God will punish us for taking what is His – as if all of it isn’t His to begin with? What will God say to us when we see Him face to face? Maybe some of us don’t know the forgiveness and the trust of our Father. Today might just be the day to begin to tithe again.
Coleen and Peter went into the bank together and nervously approached the teller to inquire about the account balance. Greatly surprised, they discovered that no money was missing at all! There was just as much in the account as there was the day Papa opened it eighteen years ago. Not many days before Papa’s death, he had restored it.
And the last time he looked at her face, he smiled at her!
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(- Helen Williams! 4/2/1995)