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Bishop's Monday Message: Each One Counts!

Posted: October 12 2020 at 09:24 AM
Author: Bishop Sally Dyck

En Español

Some people make fun of us for this, but Ken and I pick up coins on the street, coins that people have dropped, tossed or lost in some way. It began because shortly after I came to Chicago, I had a few nasty falls while running (on not-so-good sidewalks). Of course, I’m of the age that your doctor asks you at your annual checkup, “have you fallen lately?” I just laughed and said, “I’m a runner. Of course I’ve fallen!” And she responded by saying, “Watch your feet when you run!”

I thought to myself, “Duh!  Of course!” But then when I went out running the next morning, I was much more focused on watching my feet. And I kept doing that and in the course of watching my feet, I began to discover coins on the street. All kinds of coins.

One morning I found 49 pennies scattered all over the sidewalk. I picked them all up, looking over my shoulder to see if I was being filmed on “Candid Camera”—it seemed so weird. Many times, there would be one coin alone or sometimes a number of them together. Pretty soon Ken started watching for coins along his bike ride from the west loop to Evanston. Sometimes he couldn’t stop because he would be hit, but often as not, it would be there on his way home if he hadn’t already turned around and picked it up. We had ethical conversations about how far away from a homeless person should you be to pick up a coin—never right in front of them!  

And then there were those times when I would find a $20 bill or a wad of bills ($15) down on the Riverwalk. I’ve also found money in other countries!

We call these coins and bills our supplemental retirement fund. When we’d get home at night, we’d compare how much we had collected off the street during the day. Some people thought it is a competition but it isn’t; it’s a collaborative effort. At the end of the week, we would count up how much was in our little box.  With just coins alone, we would average about $1.50/week.  

COVID-19 really dried up the streets; it’s come back some, but nothing like it used to be. That’s because there are fewer people on the streets.  

Some days now, it’s just a penny or two, but when it seems like we aren’t getting much, we recite what a man in one of my churches used to say. He was developmentally disabled and one of his things was to go around fellowship time and ask for pennies from people. He always said, “Pennies make nickels and nickels make quarters and quarters make dollars.” His mother had taught him that every penny counts.

A while ago, Ken and I were having dinner with our niece and her husband. It turned out that her husband picks up money, too. He took us into the bedroom and opened his sock drawer and there were rolls after rolls of pennies! He said there was about $100 there! Pennies make nickels and nickels make quarters and quarters make dollars! $100!

Just like every penny counts, every human being counts. Every day we hear that over 2 million people have died around the world from COVID-19.  And on one given day we hear that there are 7 million cases and over 200,000 have died. Illinois has had over 300,000 cases. We pray for everyone’s complete recovery and all of us need to be a good neighbor and do what we can to prevent the spread.

They say that it’s nearly impossible for us to get our heads around numbers like millions or hundred thousands. In fact, professional fundraisers use this concept to raise money—giving people a picture of just one who is suffering. That raises more money than to tell people 2 million suffer from this or 500,000 suffer from that.

But God is not a fundraiser! God cares about each and every one of those 2 million around the world and their families. God cares about each one in our communities and churches who is sick from COVID-19 or anything else. They aren’t just numbers to God; each one is valued, and together they are the children of God, rolled up in God’s loving care and grace. 

Likewise, when we hear about people who suffer from natural disasters in our country, the numbers are staggering; along with those who suffer from opioid addiction (yes, that’s still going on) and gun violence and all the other ways in which people suffer and suffer in large numbers. But I will admit that we all have some suffering fatigue these days: COVID-19 fatigue for sure, but we are tempted to suffer from statistic fatigue, too.

But we need to remember that each one counts; each person counts! It’s one of the reasons that you also need to make sure that you take the census because it’s a way of being counted that is important to you and to your community. Do it today! It just takes a minute! It will have an impact on your life and others for the next decade. Be counted because you count!

And then there are those pesky statistics that we’re trying to keep in our churches. Making vital congregations is one of our conference’s strategic goals, and in order to do that, we have to count each one—each one counts. Keeping track of how many people are watching your online service is tricky, but there are ways to do it and to do it consistently. Keeping track of all those things is important because each one counts! Each number is a child of God who is wanting or trying to connect with your faith community.    

There are vital statistics given in the scriptures. After the children of God went into the wilderness, there was a census to discover how strong they were in light of all that they faced. Each one counted. The book is, after all, called Numbers!  But Jesus cared about the numbers, too! He fed the 5000 (although the gospel writers didn’t always count the women and children). He also said that God counts the hairs on our head—that’s how much God cares! In the early church, they kept vital statistics, as it says in Acts 2:41, for instance, that 3000 were added to the number of believers. Each one counted; each one mattered; each one a child of God with a life, a story, hopes and dreams who became connected to the life, story, and hope in Christ Jesus.

And, of course, the best vital statistics story of all is the parable that Jesus told in Luke about the lost lamb:

Suppose someone among you had 100 sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other 99 in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? (V. 4)

And then Jesus goes on to describe all the celebrating that would go one because that one lost lamb was found, counted now among the 100, safe and home with the flock. Each one counts and we celebrate the life and gifts of each one.

Even during COVID-19, we are called to search for the lost lambs: those who are hungry for meaning and purpose, spiritual nourishment, community (even online) and care. 

No matter what is going on in your life and church, remember that you count, God cares for you, and together we can help others know that they count, too.  

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