Letters . . .

Jan23

The Collection Plate

There are parts of my personal history that I share with Mark Twain.  Like Mr.Twain, I was born in Missouri and felt a love and respect for the river.

I also share something with Mr.Twain that I am not so proud of, then or now.  As an adult, Mark Twain was sitting in church one day, listening to an inspirational speech from his preacher.  The subject was a good cause for which the congregation was being asked to contribute.

Twain was so moved by the eloquent sermon that he was ready to give the $400 he had in his pocket, as soon as the collection plate came around.  But the plate was delayed as the preacher droned on interminably.  After the lengthy delay, Twain lost all philanthropic feeling and ended up taking 10  cents from the plate.

As for myself, I was 9 years old when I stole a quarter from the collection plate.  As I sat in the pew with my mom, she told me to “get rid of the gum”!

As the plate was passed in my hands, I pressed my gummed index finger against a quarter sitting on top of several dollar bills.  It was an easy matter to draw the quarter up into my hand.  I had stolen from the church and later that day I purchased 2 Baby Ruth candy bars with the stolen money.

I repeated this crime 3 other Sundays for a total theft of one dollar.  This occurred in 1959, about 100 years after the collection plate theft of Mr.Twain.  Adjusted for inflation,  I am uncertain which of us stole a greater amount.  I can say that I returned the money at a much later date.

Whether or not I have been forgiven is a decision to be made by a higher power.  As for Mr.Twain, he never reported returning the dime to its rightful owner.    Don McNeill