As the story goes, a young girl named Hattie stood sobbing outside the doors of a Philadelphia church school more than a century ago, having been turned away due to a lack of space. Upon noticing the child, the church's pastor approached and asked what the problem was.
"They cannot let me into Sunday School," Hattie said. "There is no room."
"I will take you in," the kind pastor said and ushered her into the school, telling her that someday the church will be large enough "for all that should come."
Unfortunately, just a few short weeks later, the young girl contracted diphtheria and died. At the funeral, Hattie's father approached the pastor and told him his daughter had begun saving for a building-fund, running errands for pennies she saved in a little bank.
"She would want you to have this," he said, and with an outstretched hand gave 57 cents to the pastor.
The pastor later approached his deacons with the 57 cents. While the group had no short term plan of a new building, the story inspired them and the 57 cents became the first gift toward a fundraising campaign for a new, larger church.
When a suitable building parcel was identified, the pastor approached the owner with the little girl's story.
"I talked the matter over with the owner of the property and told him of the beginning of the fund, and the story of the little girl," the pastor said.
While the man was not of the church, or even a church goer for that matter, he was so deeply moved by the story that he agreed to take the 57 cents donated by the little girl as the first down payment. A benefactor later paid off the entire amount, leaving the church with no mortgage.
Thus was the humble beginnings of the 3,300-seat Temple Baptist Church on Broad Street in Philadelphia. A true story, told by the kind pastor, Russell H. Conwell, in his book "Aces of Diamonds" published in 1890.
To this day, Hattie Mae Wiatt's picture can be found alongside one of Pastor Conwell, on the wall of the children's Sunday school room in the church, a room large enough "for all that should come."
I was reminded of this story of a simple act of kindness this week after reading a letter to the editor submitted by Rebecca Ives of Crown Point.
Rebecca told a story of a woman who approached her van at the post office and pressed a $50 bill in her hand, saying only "Here is a little something for you to take your kids somewhere nice and cool today. I think God wanted me to bless you today."
Rebecca wanted the unidentified woman to know that she and her three children did in fact take her up on the offer, and said she was moved by the woman's unsolicited act of kindness.
"If only everyone could try and do this at least once a year," Rebecca wrote, saying the world would be a better place.
I couldn't agree more, Rebecca, and I share the above story about Hattie Mae Wiatt to show just how one seemingly insignificant act of kindness can take on a life of its own - even when another is taken from us.
Send us your stories of simple acts of kindess! We will publish a select few in a future edition of this paper. Submit your stories online at www.denpubs.com, by fax 873-6360 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications. He can be reached at www.denpubs.com.