When Catherine Scott was a little girl, money was very tight, especially right after her father was ordained as a minister.
"My mother often reached the end of her grocery money long before the end of the month," Catherine says. "She used to send me into my father's closet to go through the pockets of his pants and coats. Since he was very absent-minded, I often found money during these treasure hunts." Somehow, it was always enough.
There was one place, however, where neither Catherine nor her mother would search---the Pastor's bottom dresser drawer. That was where he put the contents of the church's "poor box," money parishioners gave to aid the neediest among them. Catherine knew she and her mother were never to take anything from that box, even though they too were sometimes poor.
One day when she was about five, she heard her mother crying.
"Mama, what's wrong?" Catherine found her mother sitting on her bed staring at the bottom dresser drawer.
"Nothing, sweetheart." Catherine's mother hastily wiped her cheeks.
But despite her young age, Catherine understood. There was money in the drawer, no doubt enough to feed them. But Mama couldn't use it. That money belonged to the church.
"I can go through Papa's pockets again," Catherine suggested. Her mother smiled wanly, and Catherine started a search. But today there was nothing to find, even though Catherine looked carefully in every one of her father's garments.
"I could sense my mother's desperation," Catherine says, "but I wasn't afraid. Perhaps I was too young to know how serious the situation was. But I did remind her that we still had some Cheerios left, and my brother and I could eat that if nothing else turned up."
Catherine's mother did not seem especially cheered by this revelation. But within minutes, the back doorbell rang.
Catherine was usually not permitted to answer a doorbell alone. But right now her father was working, her brother at school, and her mother trying to repair her tear-streaked face, so the little girl was alone when she opened the door. A man in badly worn jeans was standing there.
"Is your daddy home?" he asked Catherine. She shook her head. The man squatted down in front of her and handed her a battered envelope.
daddy gave me a school desk several years ago," he explained. "There's
money inside here to pay for the desk." Catherine noticed his warm
smile. And his eyes seemed to twinkle too. "Hurry up and take this to
your Mama," he told Catherine. She closed the door, and did what he had told her.
Her mother opened the envelope. There was a five-dollar bill inside." In those days, five dollars was more than enough to get us to the end of the month," Catherine says, "so my mother was extremely grateful. She did not remember the desk or the incident, but felt certain that my father would."
But later, Catherine's father was sure that Catherine had gotten the details mixed up, and he questioned her over and over again. Who was this stranger? The Pastor had no idea.
"He actually had given a old school desk to a poor family many years ago, but that had happened in New Jersey, and we now lived in Illinois," Catherine says. "Why, after fifteen years, would a man travel 1000 miles to return money he had never been asked to repay?"
Catherine's family never discovered who the man really was. But like angels, his timing was perfect.