When I was a young bride-to-be, Violet was my visiting teacher. Violet was alternately domineering and timid. She gave overlong, guilt-inducing messages and never made eye contact. She lived alone on modest means near and under the shadow of her turbulent family. There was always a distance and awkwardness in her visits.

When I was a month from my wedding, to my surprise Violet announced that she wanted to have a bridal shower for me. She asked me for a guest list, arranged refreshments potluck style and, on the appointed day, welcomed everyone into my apartment. It's true that she greeted people with a half smile, an icy handshake and averted eyes, but there she stood, my dedicated Visiting Teacher.

Despite Violet's constant chill, the shower was a warm and wonderful event. My friends brought good wishes and a mountain of kitchenwares. Amazingly--as if she hadn't done enough already--Violet had a gift for me, too. I knew it must have stretched her limited budget. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, affection, and awe for this woman whom I hadn't even really liked.

After the shower Violet was still socially awkward, gave droning messages and stayed too long at her visits. But I had come to see her in a different light. I remembered the New Testament story of the widow's mite:

Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury; and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing, and he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That his poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury; For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living (Mark 12:41-44).

I knew I had been the recipient of Violet's "widow's mite" of service and generosity. Twenty-five years later, I am still in awe.

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