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May 1, 2006
I suppose I could get the cabinet doorknobs out of the fruit bowl for starters. It was a convenient place to drop them as I removed them, one by one, from all the doors and drawers, but they didn't really need to stay there. There's no longer room in it for any fruit: the bowl contains one banana and 24 white ceramic knobs and screws. But the church is having a rummage sale on Saturday; maybe someone will want them.

The perfectly-good-enough old cabinets are primed and painted, most of them, although certain of them will need another coat. The wallpaper is half off the kitchen walls, ripped away in half-sheets as a means of inoculating myself against a failure of nerve: I have to go through with it now. This is also why I didn't use a drop cloth: drops of cream-colored paint now spot the ancient linoleum, forcing a commitment to its replacement.

There are intricate planners, people who know in advance what's going to happen because they've got it all down on paper. Ordinarily, I am not one of these. I favor commitment over extensive preparation as a means of going forward, and it usually works for me. I just paint myself into a corner so that progress is unavoidable.

It can be unsettling for those around me, though: I don't always prepare them adequately for impending cliffhangers. This is because I fear -- reasonably -- that someone will stop me if word of my intentions gets out. So I often begin my irrevocable deeds in the dead of night, and Q awakens to find his kitchen half painted and his fruit bowl full of doorknobs.

If you're going to build a tower, Jesus said, don't you first have to determine whether you have what it takes to build one? And if you're a king going to war, don't you first have to decide whether your war is winnable? Ordinarily, yes -- but isn't Jesus also the one who fed five thousand people from one little boy's lunchbox?

You should get everything nailed down in advance if you can, I suppose. Usually. If you can.

But sometimes, you should just begin.

And the Farm is beginning something wonderful this week: Pennies From Heaven, the inspiration of HodgePodge writer Debbie Loeb ( and of Noodle the Cat. Watch the site this week for a label your child can put on a tall potato chip can to make a bank for Episcopal Relief and Development pennies, for a pamphlet describing how we help people all over the world through ERD and for pictures to color of some of things we provide for those in need.

Summer is coming, with the inevitable "I don't have anything to do" blues. This year can be different: kids can start thinking now of what they could do to fill their banks, over and over again: lemonade sales, bake sales, odd jobs, waylaying unsuspecting parishioners after church and shaking them down. You can read with your kids about life in poorer countries where ERD does its work at on the Farm at, and they can color pictures of some of the ways in which we help.

Noodle would like to hear what they come up with, and she has her own email address for this project: She will write back to anyone who emails her. She asks her young friends to let her know if they can find the hidden hedgehog in the pictures.

Special thanks to artist Dianne Robbins for her gorgeous Pennies From Heaven artwork, to Matt the Web Dude for putting it together and to Debbie for having the idea. Let's educate kids about how much more blessed it is to give than receive, and help some kids much less fortunate than ours in the bargain.
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