Wednesday, January 17, 2007

$100 project: One example, and an invitation to join us!

A few months ago, I posted about the $100 project that my Calvin seminar is doing, where each of us has to find something meaningful and interesting to do with a hundred bucks and write about it. Got a lot of good ideas and suggestions. I liked Helen's idea of using the money to facilitate a community garage sale, but alas, it's not exactly garage sale season with winter in Illinois. Stacey sent a link to her church's website, where they reported on what folks did in a similar project with $10 bills. It was great to read about all the creative ways that people used their money and multiplied it for kingdom purposes; I was particularly amazed by the person who bought an old, antique Eveready flashlight for $10 and sold it on eBay for $1500. I never knew that there were such serious flashlight collectors out there.

Alas, my $100 is still sitting in an envelope on my dresser. I haven't done anything with it yet. Which means that functionally, I'm no better than the lazy servant that buried his talents in the backyard (an experience that one of my fellow Calvin participants is replicating). I suppose that that's a lesson in itself. It's convicting to realize that my inaction and procrastination puts me in the same company as the wicked and lazy servant that should have at least put the money in the bank. I am feeling more sympathetic to that third servant, and I'm wondering if he started to panic when his master's return approached. (The deadline for our project is supposed to be June 1, 2007.)

Anyway, we just got one $100 report from Deb Rienstra, the convener of our seminar. She's an English prof at Calvin and the author of So Much More and Great With Child, which is the most thoughtful, meditative, literary and spiritually profound book I've ever encountered on the topic of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting a newborn - if you're expecting or have a new baby, you simply must read this book! Here's an excerpt from Deb's blog post about her $100:
Here's what I did: I obliged my class of poetry-writing students to come up with an idea for how to spend the money. The first suggestions pretty much missed the spirit of the deal: "Let's throw the money at a homeless person. The sheer waste of it would be so poignant." "Let's build a zipline on campus." That's about when I shut down the class discussion and asked people to think about it and e-mail me later.

The next week, two women in the class independently came up with the same idea: to do a poetry workshop at a local elementary school. Now THAT, I thought, could be good.

So I worked with the Service-Learning Center at Calvin and contacted a teacher at the Montessori public school downtown: multi-ethnic student body, good share of at-risk kids, lower socio-economic profile, and not much funding for the arts. My students and I visited the school for two one-hour sessions on separate days. Each of my students worked with two or three fifth-graders. We had lesson plans and everything. After the two sessions, we took the "manuscripts" back to Calvin and turned them into a pretty nifty chapbook. We used the hundred bucks to make plenty of copies for everyone. The copy bill came to $106.25.

Her blog post also has some examples of the poetry that her project created. I'm very impressed with how concrete Deb's project was and the potential impact on young students. I still remember my first published work as a first-grader that appeared in my school district's "literary magazine," a poem that read, "Red is fire. Red is chalk. Red is like a finger talk." This was then followed by my third-grade contribution, when I was aspiring to be an astronaut:
In the solar system there are nine
Planets born at the same time.
Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars,
Jupiter, Saturn, still far from the stars.
Uranus, Neptune, Pluto is last,
These are the planets, moving fast.
Of course, now Pluto is being demoted from planethood and other objects are now understood to be part of our system . . . but I find it significant that I still remember these poems, and somehow I've followed my vocational calling into Christian publishing. Anyway, kudos to Deb and her Calvin students for their initiative, and I hope they continue the effort in the future! And I'm still looking for something creative and missional to do with my $100. Any more ideas out there?

Actually, would anybody else be interested in doing this along with me? I was realizing that one simple way that many of the people at Stacey's church multiplied their money was to enlist friends and family members to join them in their effort. I didn't offer an invitation on my last post about this, so let me do that here, with every eye closed, every head bowed - if you, dear blog reader, feel the call of the Holy Spirit to use $100 strategically and intentionally for the sake of the kingdom, take the plunge and join the movement! Take this up as a new year's resolution or challenge. Let me know that you're going to do something along these lines in the next six months or so, and blog about it on your own blog. And invite others to do the same. Let's see what happens!


L.L. Barkat said...

I like your early poetry. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

I found this site purely by accident, but what a coincidence! I'm reading your book...and enjoying it!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting challenge! I'll have to think about whether to accept it or not.

I could lead a poetry workshop, I think...

And I am especially challenged by your thought that the third servant was just procrastinating. Maybe he never meant to keep the talent buried. He just couldn't think of a reason to dig it up and risk losing it.

Which reminds me, I always wondered what the master would have done if one of the servants had risked the talents and lost them.

Or is it impossible for us to lose the gifts God gives us to serve him with?