“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.” (Mk 12: 43-44)
When I read this passage, the first example that comes to mind of generosity from poverty is the group of prisoners whom I visit who are lay Dominicans living according to the Third Order rule of St Dominic. Over the years, they have demonstrated great generosity despite their poverty. Some men have the support of families that allows them to buy simply goods in the commissary, but others have nothing, not even enough to purchase a bottle of shampoo. Yet the community finds innovative ways that everyone can participate in almsgiving. For example, years ago, they gave up having coffee at their meetings and used the funds that would have gone to a cup of coffee in order to support a family in need in Kenya.
More recently, the men participated in the Walk for Hunger, whose proceeds go to benefit food pantries in Massachusetts. Since the men cannot, obviously, walk in the streets of Boston, they walk up to ten miles in circles within the prison grounds. Since they cannot themselves really fundraise, they rely on external supporters to raise funds for them, which are sent directly to Project Bread. Supporters were generous. This past year they collectively raised more than $6,000 to assist food pantries. They remind me that, whatever our circumstances, we can always find ways to be generous.