Karen Sue Foss
The Fifty Cent Coat
“Mom, the coat isn’t here,” Luke shouted. “You must not be looking in the right place! I placed it on the table”, exclaimed his mom, Lydia. Luke cried out, “That’s where I checked, and it’s not here. It’s gone!”
Monday had rolled in like a colossal wave crashing onto the gray sands. Lydia was busy getting the donated toilet articles, school supplies, toys, and candy sorted out before all the teachers arrived that evening to fill the gift bags for the students in her church’s ESL ministry. “I just don’t have enough time to do all the things that must be done this week. I can’t imagine what I’d do if it weren’t for your help, Mary Margaret. Mary Margaret was accustomed to helping her sister, Lydia, whenever Lydia was knee deep in her many insurmountable tasks. Mary Margaret grinned, “Wasn’t it a lot of fun rummaging through those new consignment shops? I have to tell you, I can’t believe we got that expensive coat for only 50 cents. It’s in perfect condition!”
When the little community of Sunset started sponsoring political refugees, there was a real need to help them get integrated into their new homeland. Sponsors greeted them at the airport, took them to their apartments, and showed them how to use modern appliances. The refugees were surprised at the indoor bathrooms, often breaking into laughter over a flushing toilet and water rushing through a showerhead. Conceptualizing filling a bathtub with water to bathe in was too wasteful of a precious commodity, considering they sometimes had to walk 5 miles to a source of water to fill the containers they would carry on their heads back to their previous encampments.
Free from their country’s military junta and no longer confined to refugee camps, these newcomers were anxious to start a new life, get an education for their children, earn a living, find a place to worship, and learn all things American. It didn’t take long for the teenagers to want to dress like their American classmates, and the children fell right into the universal language of show and tell. The adults experienced greater challenges with the heavy emphasis to learn a new language in order to find jobs.
The pastor at Sunset Community Church came up with the idea of offering an ESL program, teaching the refugees English as a Second Language. Pastor Hanover felt it could be their small part in helping these delightful people.
Sunset is located near a pristine island on the southeast Atlantic Coast. Pastor Hanover and his Brazilian wife, Isabelle, loaded up the church bus with refugees and drove them to the beach. Once the bus was parked and they saw the sandy beach leading to the vast clear blue ocean waters, the refugees poured out of the van running, laughing, and throwing sand as high into the air as the winds would carry the grains. The little children would tumble over the grayish white waves as they washed upon shore.
To the surprise of the congregation at Sunset Community Church, the ESL ministry began to grow much larger than they had anticipated, and the growing pains were becoming a cause for concern.
“Hey mom, I see the teachers pulling in the parking lot, ”shouted Luke. “Oh good! I finally have everything sorted out for the Christmas bags,” Lydia said panting from the fatigue of her busy day. The newly remodeled multi-purpose room in the church served as the perfect location to fill the many bright red tote bags. Suddenly the room was filled with workers chatting and laughing from their joyful hearts. “Oh, did I tell you about the expensive coat I bought for 50 cents? It’s the perfect size for one of our little refugee boys,” Lydia proudly told the group of elves, as the teachers referred to themselves. Everyone was surprised that the coat was only 50 cents.
It was countdown now to the remaining days left until the Christmas party. “I’m going to head over to the church today to do a little more preparation for the Christmas party,” Lydia told her family. “Luke, do you want to come help me?” As Lydia and Luke approached the church building, a team of young basketball players was leaving, after having practiced in the gymnasium. The church rents the use of its gym to other churches and school sports programs. Lydia was noticing how sweaty and exhausted these young little boys were after their practice. “They sweat as hard as I do when I’m practicing basketball with my team, ” boasted Luke of his 6’, lean frame at the age of 15.
Luke climbed the stairwell two steps at a time. Lydia decided to take the slow elevator to the second floor of the education building attached to the gymnasium complex, to get to the clothing room.
“Oh no!” cried Luke. It’s gone!” Luke and Lydia searched frantically for the 50-cent coat; fearing the worse, that it had been taken.
“There’s only one group that has been in this building since I left it earlier. I’m going to give Coach Mike at the Sunset Christian Academy a call right now,” as Lydia reached inside her blouse for the cell phone she kept snug against her breast.
“Hello,” Coach Mike said in a robust voice. “Coach Mike, this is Lydia Sorenson. Remember meeting me at the church where your team was practicing earlier today?” “Yes, yes, of course I do. What can I help you with”?
Lydia went on to explain to Coach Mike about the coat she had purchased for a little refugee boy. She filled him in on all the details of their church ESL Ministry, and how this little boy had arrived in their community with nothing but the clothes he was wearing.
“What an incredible ministry, Lydia, but I find it difficult to believe that one of my players would have gone up to that room and taken the coat.” “It had to be one of your players,” Lydia said in a trembling voice, “because no one else had entered the building between the time I placed the coat on the table and when your team left from practice.” “As I said, I just can’t imagine that happening, but let me try to work this out. I’ll call you back tomorrow with a resolution.” “Call me early in the morning,” explained Lydia, “ I am maxed out on time getting ready for our Christmas party. I want to be sure this little boy has a coat to wear during this cold weather snap we’re having.”
Normally, the sound of the local radio broadcaster’s voice seemed pleasant enough, except for this Friday morning when the radio alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m., and Lydia still feeling tired and wanting to roll over and cover her head with the warm blankets. But, she knew she had to get up to get her family fed and off to start their day.
At 9:00 a.m., Lydia received a phone call from Coach Mike, just as he had promised. “Good morning, Lydia, I wanted to let you know that I could not find anyone who claimed to take the coat.” “Of course”, Lydia was thinking to herself. By the sound of Coach Mike’s voice, he seemed to be much more awake than Lydia. “To help with the loss of the coat, I would like to give you $75 for the coat, and also I wanted to let you know that the parents are happy to donate items for your Christmas bags.” “What?” cried Lydia, her eyes now wider than a nocturnal tarsier.
Just as Lydia was parking her car in the church parking lot, Coach Mike was pulling in driving a nice Prussian blue SUV. His long legs and slim torso climbed out with ease of a gazelle.
“Is that enormous box full of goodies for us?” Lydia playfully questioned the coach. “Indeed it is, and we are delighted that we could help your ESL Ministry in such a meager way,” replied Coach Mike, talking like a proud fundraiser. To Lydia’s amazement, the box contained enough supplies to completely fill each stocking, plus have more on hand for another event. “Is there anything else we can help you with in your ministry?” Coach Mike asked, stroking his heart as an indication of sincerity.
“Well, as a matter of fact, we could use more donations to our clothing room for the refugees.” Lydia nervously requested. “I will be happy to let the parents know, and I’ll also mention this to the pastor of my church.” Coach Mike replied as he was walking towards his sheen SUV.
“It’s 5 o’clock and the bus is here,” shouted Joe, our cook on Monday nights. The tables in the gymnasium are flourish with beautiful decorations, the Christmas music is playing, the teachers are all lined up at the serving tables filled with pasta, bread, salad, beverages, and array of sprinkled Christmas cookies. Next to a side doorway are long tables with all the bright red Christmas totes waiting to be cherished by the happy refugees. “ It’s a Christmas Wonderland, making all the preparations worth every minute.” Lydia said beaming with joy.
The gymnasium doors opened and in ran all the precious little children with their parents right behind them. An array of colorful smiling faces and giggling children scurried to find suitable tables closet to the Christmas totes and food tables. Their happy voices filled the gymnasium to where the music seemed to be silencing in the background.
Over the microphone came the announcement, “The ESL Ministry workers are pleased to have all of you attend our Christmas party. Let’s bow our heads and have a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has provided for us, and then we can eat.”
The restless children were kicking the chairs and climbing out of their seats, anxiously awaiting their gift bags, wishing the eating would happen later.
“Okay boys and girls, you can all line up over here to receive your gift bag,” Lydia was motioning to the taped line on the floor. The children raced towards the taped line, even though they were instructed to walk. Of course, there is a slight language difference going on here. Cameras clicking, children laughing, moving about as they showed off their candy and toys, the parents quickly gathered behind the taped line, accepting their gift bags with bobbing heads and smiles of gratitude.
As Lydia lay in her bed that night, tears began rolling down her face onto the soft pillow. “Is something wrong, honey?” asked her loving husband, Robert. “Yes, I mean, no.” Lydia was feeling overwhelmed.
After a few moments of silence, Lydia questioned how a missing 50-cent coat could end up filling so many Christmas totes with more than enough for everyone.
Lydia’s pillow was now soaked with tears, “Why did God choose me to lead such an amazing ministry? “Was almost losing our son to a dreaded virus this past summer God’s way of preparing my heart?” “I don’t really know,” Robert said with much consolation. “ But I do believe that this 50 cent coat was His message to all of us that if we serve Him faithfully, He will bless us with overflowing abundance.”
Based on true and fictional events and characters.
Author: Karen Sue Foss
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Karen Sue Foss.
Published on e-Stories.org on 11.01.2017.