“We’re handing out 50 Visa cards with $20 loaded on them for people in our community to find someone to give an unexpected gift to. It could be a friend, family member, co-worker, or even a stranger on the street. Our goal is to show that even a small amount of money can make a huge impact . . . We’re calling the entire project the Rockstar Community Fund.”
I was interested in J. Money’s Community Fund when he initially outlined his vision for it, and I am so happy to have taken part in its first act. Who knew there would be a logistical complication in carrying out the straightforward, simple plan described above? I live in Canada, and the $20 Visa cards distributed by the Rockstar Community Fund only work in the U.S. To get around this roadblock, Jay sent $20 USD to me via Paypal. On my end, I received $26 in Canadian funds.
Logistics resolved, money in hand, I only needed to decide who would receive this unexpected gift. After about a nano-second, I had made up my mind: I would give the $26 to Glodie.
This is what $26 Canadian looks like. (Fun fact: We call that $1 coin a “loonie” since it features a loon.)
Glodie is a senior student at the high school where I work. Two years ago, she was a newcomer to our city – a refugee from civil war in the Congo. After years of waiting through danger, separation, displacement, and illness, the family of twelve – ten children with their parents – found safety and a new home in Ottawa. Health problems prevent Glodie’s mother from working, and her father has not been able to find steady employment. The children who are old enough to work part-time make financial contributions to the running of their family’s household, and from what I can tell, they all form a great team.
Glodie, along with three of her siblings, is part of our school’s Christian Group – which I facilitate along with another teacher. At one meeting a few weeks ago, I asked the students to describe a time when they felt frustrated by a sense that their prayers weren’t being answered. Glodie shared her story.
An engagement in the family & a dress to buy
In November, Glodie’s older sister announced to the family that she had become engaged. It was great news! The wedding would take place in the fall of 2017, and an engagement party was planned for December of 2016. Sisters, female cousins and close friends of the bride and groom-to-be would wear their beautiful Congolese dresses and join in the celebration with about 150 people.
Glodie didn’t have a traditional dress. “I was a tomboy growing up,” she smiled. She was excited about going to see the tailor to select the cloth and to discuss the design. She would wear this dress to mark special occasions for years to come.
It would cost her $150, but she wasn’t worried about that. Glodie had just finished her job at a large sporting venue that had lasted from late spring to early fall, and she had applied for one of the few positions that were available through the winter months. But no sooner had her sister announced her engagement than Glodie found out she would not be hired back for the winter.
Had she saved any money from her months of working? “I gave some of the money I earned to help my family, and I also tithed to my church.” Did she ever buy things for herself? “I’m not a big shopper.” What about movies or restaurant meals? “I really like coffee,” she smiled.
Glodie filled in applications for many part-time jobs, but time was ticking, and preparations for the engagement party had to be made. She withdrew $50 as a down-payment for the dress and had $70 left in the bank. It did not add up to the $150 needed. Just at that time, there was a special request for financial support from her church. “I wanted to help my church, but I also wanted to buy this dress. There were two roads, and I was like ‘Wow! What should I do?'” Things were not working out.
Honest prayer: “Don’t You see what’s happening?”
Frustrated by her situation, Glodie prayed an honest prayer one night. “Don’t You see what’s happening? I tithe, I help other people, I pray every day . . . Why is this happening?!” Glodie has a Bible app on her phone that sends her a verse of scripture every morning, and the next day, she woke up to 1 Peter 5:7 – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
When she told the group about receiving this verse the morning after her frustrated prayer, Glodie’s eyes shone and her hands gestured in release of profound feeling. “That verse was so exactly for me! I knew right then that God saw me, that He understood. I felt so loved, and I was so happy! The burden from my heart just melted down.”
What about the dress? “I gave $40 to the church, and I knew that things would either work out for the dress or they wouldn’t. If they didn’t, I would just pick another outfit from my closet.”
And that was it. No resolution to her burning question, but something much, much better. Glodie had peace, joy, and trust instead of the stress and frustration she had carried – even though she was still in a state of uncertainty.
“Miss, there’s more to the story now”
As I considered how I would give Glodie the $26, I decided to ask her if she would be willing to be interviewed for this post. I had interviewed her sister Vanessa for a post earlier in the year, and Glodie, with her parents’ permission, was glad to take part. “Miss, there’s more to the story now,” she told me.
The day her mother took Glodie to the tailor for a fitting, Glodie told her that she only had $30. Her mom, who already knew (Vanessa had spoken with her about it), gently offered to pay the remaining $70 needed, and Glodie went to try on her dress. “It was SO beautiful!” Glodie’s eyes filled up just telling me about it. “My mom was so happy and we both just loved everything about it.” The tailor, a bit hardened from customer complaints over the years, was genuinely touched by the gratitude expressed for her work. “She gave me a $20 discount!” Glodie promptly gave the money to her mother.
And how was the engagement party? “It was wonderful!” Glodie joined her sisters in serving food that the family had prepared while her brothers made sure their guests had drinks. (“No alcohol,” she told me.) “Everybody said how beautiful our dresses were.” Glodie tried to find words to capture the warmth of the celebration. “Miss,” she said, “my dad was so moved he cried.”
Glodie and Vanessa stand with the bride-to-be and friends – all in their traditional Congolese dresses – at the engagement party.
Rock Star Community Fund gift given
As our interview wrapped up, I told Glodie about the initiative that had been taken by “someone in the blogging community” who had passed out $20 Visa gift cards, each one to be given away. She must have wondered why I was telling her about it – especially when I got into the whole exchange rate thing – but she nodded her head, politely listening. When I told Glodie that I was taking part in this initiative, and that I had chosen to give the $26 to her, her hands flew up to cradle her face, and eyes welling up, she said, “Oh Miss! Now I just feel really special!”
“You are,” I told her.
Glodie is still looking for a job, but she’s moving forward with anticipation instead of worry. She was touched by the gift I was privileged to give her, yet by sharing her vulnerability, her struggle, her prayer, and her gratitude, she has given much more. Christmas will be here in a few days, and Glodie’s testimony is a powerful reminder of the reason for the season. She knows that her story is still being written. The uncertainties of life don’t define her. They are challenges to press through and to learn from in faith as her character builds and the next chapter unfolds.
If you had a $20 Visa gift card to give away, who would receive it? Your comments are welcome.
If you would like to contribute to and/or participate in the Rockstar Community Fund, check out this page.