Two Penny-Worth

As she jostled her way through the milling, gossipy throng in the Outer Court of the Temple, she felt her slender hand clench on all she had left. So tight her nails dug into her skin. Her knees felt unsteady. How would she get food if she did this? Hesitating, she leaned against the nearest column. Everyone was too busy to notice. The Temple stonework glinted red, yellow, and a stark white in the afternoon sun. As she looked at it, she remembered their home in the hills. How often she and Barak had sat on the verandah of an evening enjoying the cool air, sipping their fine wine, and planning their next shipments to the coast. Life had been good and was getting better. There was money in the bank. She trembled and a tear formed in her eye. Oh, if only it hadn’t gone wrong. They’d worked long, hard hours and those locusts… Those locusts destroyed it all. Barak couldn’t cope. A business, a life, a marriage, all gone in three days. She raged as the creditors took what was left.

Leaning back against the column, watching happy family groups prepare to worship, she sobbed. Fifteen years of loneliness and hardship rolled down her face. Life had been hard without a family. Worry had taken her prisoner. Could she pay the rent? Where could she find work? How would she feed herself? Day after day, the worry was all she had. Now, if she did this, there would be no money for food tonight. Just more worry.

There had been no work that day she’d first heard the Preacher. So she followed the crowd. Her hillside garden and its wildlife had been her private joy, so when he spoke about lilies and birds and caring for them, she shuffled closer to catch all he was saying. He was so assured. She couldn’t forget his words. The lilies, her favourites, were beautiful, such an intricate design for such a short time. He was right about the birds, too, always about, finding food and breeding. She repeatedly tossed it over in her mind since then. Why did she worry?

Still, this was a big step, a very real risk. Her hand tightened again. Taking deep breaths to steady herself, she wiped away the tears. Then she spotted him with his fishermen friends, half-way across the precinct. I must do it now, she thought, or I’ll never do it. Slowly she paced her way to the treasury. Hesitating, she clasped her hands tight to her chest. After a quick prayer, she reached out, paused and let one coin drop into the basket. Could she not keep the other? Another quick prayer. She urged herself, ‘Miriam no, no half measures.’ Unclasping her hand, her second and last coin fell, and she stepped away. Their eyes locked across the Court, and a strange warmth filled her being as he smiled. There would be no need to worry again.