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.57 Cents and a Dream

by Chris Jackson on October 26, 2011

One chilly Sunday  morning  in the Winter of 1886, a sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it “was too crowded.” The Pastor of the small church, Russell H. Conwell, came upon this scene and the little girl cried “I can’t go to Sunday School, “she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Little Hattie May Wiatt, who lived nearby, had brought her books and a contribution and was standing by the gate, hesitating whether to go back home or wait and try to get in later. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, picked her up on his shoulders and carried her into the church, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The next morning as the pastor came down to the church from home he passed their house and little Hattie was going up the street to school. As they met, he said: “Hattie, we are going to have a larger Sunday school room soon”, and she said: “I hope you will. It is so crowded that I am afraid to go there alone”. “Well”, the Pastor replied, “When we get the money with which to erect a school building we are going to construct one large enough to get all the little children in, and we are going to begin very soon to raise the money for it”.

The next day the Pastor received news that Hattie May had taken ill and the family asked the pastor to come and pray. Conwell prayed with the family but as he left he knew the outcome was not going to be good for Hattie May, later that night he received notice that little Hattie May had died. The parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. After the service, the mother handed the Conwell an old shabby change purse, and through her tears, the mother stated, “this is Hattie Mays’ contribution for the new Sunday school.” Inside was 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.” The little girl had been saving this offering of love for some time. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do.  The following Sunday, carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion.

Rev. Conwell had the 57 cents turned into 57 pennies, told the congregation the story of little Hattie May and sold the pennies for a return of about $250.  In addition, 54 of the original 57 pennies were returned to Rev. Conwell and he later put them up on display.  This was in 1886 when 57 cents was no small savings account for a little girl from a poor family.  Some of the members of the church formed what they called the Wiatt Mite Society which was dedicated to making Hattie May’s 57 cents grow as much as possible and to buy the property for the Primary Department of the Sunday school.  A house nearby was purchased with the $250 that Hattie May’s 57 cents had produced and the rest is history.  The first classes of Temple College, later Temple University, were held in that house.  It was later sold to allow Temple College to move and the growth of Temple, along with the founding of the Good Samaritan Hospital (Now the Temple University Hospital) have been powerful testimonies to Hattie May Wiatt’s dream.

What is your dream worth to you? Is it the money, time, family, or lack of opportunity that is holding you back? Why haven’t you lived the life of your dreams?  This little girl with seemingly nothing, not only inspired a great vision but changed the course of American history with only $.57… Decide to make today your day of achievement, we all owe a dream debt to those who have come and gone before us, pay your debt. Maybe it was your father who worked 16 hour days to provide a home and shelter, your mother who sacrificed her career so she could be there to raise you, or maybe it was your grandparents who migrated to America with only the clothes on their backs and dreams of a better life for themselves and future generations. Whomever it may be, you OWE that debt, and how do you repay such a debt…. BY LIVING YOUR DREAMS!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rod Shpman October 26, 2011 at 10:11 am

That was powerful, amazing what vision can do and I don’t mean sight. Many of us have sight but don’t understand the difference in the two.


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