My son and I heard a folktale in which a beggar asks the king for “just a bit of rice.” He asks the king to put a single grain of rice on the first square of a chess board. On the second square, the king will double that to two grains of rice. On the third, he will again double it, adding four grains, and so on across the board. The folktale ends by telling about the vast amount of rice the king had inadvertently agreed to give away. A roomful.
Really? I couldn’t believe that tiny grains of rice would add up so quickly. I needed proof; faith does not come easily to me. Anyway, I started doing the math:
Square 1: 1 grain.
Square 2: 2 grains.
Square 3: 4 grains.
Square 4: 8 grains.
Square 5: 16 grains.
By square 10, I had 512 grains of rice and it was getting hard to do the math in my head. I created a spread sheet. With just a few key strokes I calculated how many grains of rice would be on the 64th square of the chess board. Any guesses?
9,223,372,036,854,780,000 grains of rice.
Add up all of the rice on the chessboard and you have 18,446,744,073,709,600,000 grains of rice.
That is one heck of a lot of rice, more or less 636,094,623,231,364 pounds.
What does this have to do with faith? Most religions teach about giving to the poor, taking care of those who cannot care for themselves. In spite of this, many of the faithful doubt our ability to make change in the world around us. We don’t have the energy for Herculean efforts and we doubt that anything as small as what we could pull off (our rice grain) would have an impact.
Fortunately, there are those who have pulled together grains of rice and single pennies to create big change. These are the stories I will be telling in my new feature posts, Interfaith Works; stories of people from various countries and faiths who are determined to make a difference. They have had an epiphany and have seen a path to a better world.
It will be up to us to follow them.
The greatest gifts
don't fit in a box.
They slip into the heart
without ribbons or bows,
and make a home there.
They are larger than any of us,
they move mountains,
fueled by what is best in us.
Anyone can give.
Charity is not barred
by age or size or talent.
It takes only one action
change the world.
TisBest to begin together.