Small Change, Big Difference

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Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and your prayers
Someone read: A reading from James 2:14-17

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Listen to the CD or Read the Script
Song words by Br Michael Herry FMS on the album God of Surprises

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the needs of the world and our communities and we feel a little bit powerless. I had a really beautiful experience recently. I went into Myanmar to visit communities and education programmes and try to understand the culture and the country from which so many Burmese migrants have escaped to come into Thailand.

And I must admit to you, it's so poor. It saddened me; everywhere I looked I just saw such depressing poverty. One memory I have is visiting a rural rice farming community around the middle of Myanmar. I was the first white person and foreigner they had ever seen. They stared at me from around the walls of their hut and their children spoke and together they said: 'look he's got different coloured eyes than us'. I was a bit of a novelty.

All of these families barely make living growing rice, but the women had a beautiful project called the 'cup of rice' project for their children. I was really moved to hear how it happened.

When the mum cooks the evening meal at night, she puts her hand into the bag of rice; she takes then an extra handful of rice and pours that into a small bag. When the local women gathered each week to share and pray, each mum brought their 'small bag of rice' (which was that extra hand full of rice that did not go into the pot for their family, but went into a little bag for a child in the community) and when all the mums came together and gathered it all together, it would sometimes make almost a sack of rice.

The mums identified a family in need and they sold their sack of rice to this family for half price. Then the money raised from the sale of this sack of rice was used for education and transport and helpful courses. Together the women had recognised that their small individual contribution gradually and over time was making an incredible difference to their community and their children. Now they have over 200,000 kyat in their bank account (that's their Burmese currency) and it supports many children to get an education.

What struck me was that from almost nothing, they are able to make an incredible difference.

In New Zealand we are so lucky. But we may not always notice it. Living among the poor Burmese Migrant Families I am stunned that our 'small change' in NZ, the coins in our wallet, in our pockets, on the bench, our cups of coffee, those little things that we buy as a treat, it is actually the daily wage of a Burmese Migrant family.

Sometimes we see and feel the world has so many needs and we can feel a bit helpless and powerless. But we are not really when we see examples like the cup of rice project from these mothers in Burma. Many people doing something little can create an incredible difference and a great change.

You might like to consider how you – and the Marist group you connect with – could put Marist compassion into action, especially as we seek ways to live Mercy and not just talk about it as Pope Francis invites us to.

Here at the Marist Mission in Thailand, in Ranong, we really would love your prayers and we can also benefit incredibly from supporters and volunteers.

I'd like to invite you to pray for us, your Marist Missionaries, when you gather this year, that we may not lose heart, that we may have courage, that we may be filled with compassion and courage for the ups and downs as missionaries.

I'd also like to share a little opportunity we have called 'Small Change – Big Difference' :

70 cents a day
$5 a week
$20 a month

It actually supports a child's education for a month. It's the shopping change. A cup of coffee. Yet this small change makes a BIG difference.

Perhaps you or your group may consider sponsoring a child or learn about the needs of the education programmes we run to make and incredible difference to Burmese children especially.

Share Your Thoughts
on any of the suggested questions or on your own ideas on the topic.

It surprises people sometimes just how far $20 can go in Asia. How much does it cost to send a NZ child to school for 1 month?

Do you feel powerful or powerless in the midst of great need? What actions might help you feel more engaged and hopeful?

What inspires you about the 'cup of rice' Mothers project? Share ideas on how something simple and achievable could be done in your community?

On the internet consider watching a 'day in the life of the Marist Centre' and see the Burmese Migrant children we love and serve.

(You can watch this on the YouTube clip at the bottom of this page.)

No. 9 From our Charter –
For your reflection this month

Mary is Mother of the Church,
given to us from the cross by Jesus.
Mary has a special bond with, and responsibility for, women who share her vocation.

"Woman, this is your son; this is your mother." John 19:26

Prayer Time: For your own intentions and other needs
Conclude the meeting with the following:

Lord, Teach me to be generous
as You have been generous with me.
Teach me that all I am and have
are gifts from You.
And gifts, Lord, are meant to be shared.

Show me the joys of generosity.
Help me to understand that others, perhaps unknown to me,
depend on me for help.
Remind me that my world, my parish,
need "Good Samaritans" to heal the wounds of our times.

Make me a gift to others in Your name.

© 2016 Archdiocese of Detroit, Changing Lives Together
(Prayer for Generosity (St. Ignatius of Loyola)