Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - Updated: 10:19 am
When the St. Elizabeth Women’s Book Club was close to reading its 100th book, Jean Marshall, the group’s leader, began scouting around for something special for the group to read, perhaps having to do with the number 100.
She checked local libraries, surfed the internet, and kept her eyes and ears open for inspiration.
“We had a couple of book club meetings and I was asking people to throw out ideas, but we didn’t get that many,” she said.
As the March deadline to choose the 100th book drew near, one of the members mentioned at a meeting that she had heard about a book called “The Yellow Envelope” by Kim Dinan. It’s a true story about a husband and wife who quit their jobs to travel around the world.
Before the couple’s departure, they are given a gift of $1,000 in a yellow envelope and told to give the cash away to enrich the lives of those they encounter. The book details their adventures and challenges.
Marshall said the club members seemed sure that “The Yellow Envelope” would be a perfect 100th book for them to read in April.
At the April club meeting, after the members had read the book, there was lively discussion about the book’s characters and the story, she said. Following that, Marshall had a surprise for the book club members.
She had asked her husband, Tom, about putting cash in yellow envelopes and giving them to her fellow club members. He agreed, and the women were given envelopes containing from $5 to $40 with instructions to pay it forward to help others.
At the end of the book, Marshall said, there is a yellow envelope that the author asks the reader to use to do a good deed, such as write a letter, give money or something else, “to pass on the spirit of the yellow envelope.”
All of the book club members took an envelope and were told that there would be no timetable to donate the money.
“It’s whenever the Spirit presents the situation, then you have that tucked away in your purse knowing that situation comes along,” she said.
Joanne Rosteck, another original club member, said she gave her money and envelope to a homeless man holding a sign on a busy local street.
Pat Ogilvie decided to pay for the person’s meal behind her in a fast-food drive-through. The clerk seemed confused by her request, she said, but “A couple of times it’s happened to me, and to me it’s a great pick-me-up.”
Eleanor Faccenda learned about a young student at W.R. Paynter Elementary School in the Baldwin-Whitehall district. The girl is an orphan who is being raised by an elderly neighbor who is struggling financially.
“It turned out that she needed glasses and the school district was putting in some money, but they weren’t quite there. So I added to my yellow envelope money, and she’s going to get her glasses.”
One club member, Sally Wood, said the yellow envelope money helped her increase her own ministry. She sends two greeting cards a month to people she encounters who need a little boost. She bought 10 more cards and sent them out.
“So I bought very nice cards and I put a note in each one, and I usually put something holy in it,” she said. “One girl called me up and she said, ‘Wow. Thanks for that. It lifted my whole day.’”
Sometimes it’s the little things — giving a small amount of money, a kind word or a few moments of your time — that can make a world of difference.
We’re told when we leave Mass to bring the faith to the world, Marshall said. “Take it to your environment. Take it to where you work, where you live, where you play. And just keep the spirit of the yellow envelope alive.”