Narrow Roads May 2017

I received one of those forwarded e-mails the other day.  The kind that is meant to bring a tear to your eye, just before you’re challenged to forward it to 10 people.  None-the-less, the story was inspiring so I took the time to research it to find out if it was true, or simply a fabrication.  The story is called “The History of the 57 Cents” and it is true although the e-mail version as expected has been embellished. 

The true story goes like this:  Back in 1886, there was a little girl named Hattie May Wiatt, who lived in Pennsylvania.  She happened to live near a small, but wildly popular neighborhood church which held an equally popular Sunday school class for children.  One particular Sunday the Pastor, Russell H. Conwell, came upon a number of children waiting outside the church building.  They were unable to get inside because the classrooms were over crowded.  Pastor Conwell noticed little Hattie May standing among the crowd.  The Pastor scooped Hattie up carried her through the crowd and found her a place in a corner of the children’s Sunday school class.

The following morning Pastor Conwell met Hattie in the street.  He told the little girl, “Hattie, we are going to have a larger Sunday school room soon.” She replied, “I hope you will.  It is so crowded that I am afraid to go there alone.” “Well”, he replied, “When we get the money with which to erect a school building, we are going to construct one large enough to get all the little children in, and we are going to begin very soon to raise the money for it.” Actually, by Pastor Conwell’s own admission, this was only a hopeful vision at that time.

The next time Pastor Conwell spoke to Hattie, it was in her home. She had become very ill and the Pastor had gone to her home to pray with her. Unfortunately, she did not recover from her illness. At her funeral, her mother handed Pastor Conwell a little bag which contained 57¢.  Hattie had gathered this meager amount as her contribution to the new school building.  The Pastor took the 57¢ and exchanged it for 57 pennies. He then told the congregation Hattie’s story and offered the pennies to the congregation. In return he received $250 in donation as well as 54 of the original pennies (Three of the original pennies were lost).  The church repeated this process again and again until they had enough money to buy a neighboring house and open a larger Sunday school.  But the story does not end there.

The new building enabled further church growth and so it was decided to purchase more property on which to erect an even larger church building and Sunday school. Again, the remaining 54 pennies were put to use. This time, a piece of property worth $30,000 was purchased from a man familiar with Hattie’s story. For a down payment, he accepted 54¢.  Not long after, the mortgage holder returned the 54 pennies to the church, and the church built a new building with larger Sunday school rooms and even more room for expansion.

Now a new idea was birthed. Theirs was a working class neighborhood and what the people really needed was a college so that these hard working people could rise above their circumstances.  As the church continued to flourish, the idea also came about to build a hospital to help the working class poor.  In the end Hattie’s simple donation of 57¢ had become instrumental in the development of a thriving church, Sunday school, college and hospital.  You may have heard of them, Temple University and Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.  Each of these institutions has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the 122 years since Hattie’s death, and they legitimately found their beginnings in that little girl’s simple gift.

The above information was gleaned directly from the original sermon preached by Pastor Conwell to his congregation on December 1, 1912.  I feel it would be an injustice to misrepresent the original intent of Pastor Conwell’s sermon. What he wanted his congregation to hear and understand is that one does not have to be famous in the eyes of men to be used of God in mighty ways.  Pastor Conwell likened Hattie to a nameless little boy who gave his simple lunch of bread and fish to Jesus on a hillside in Judea.  A lunch which the Gospel writers tell us, Jesus used to feed 5,000 people.

So, whether it be Dee Snider leading several thousand bikes in the Dee Snider’s Ride, or the Road Captain of some small club leading a handful of bikers to raise support for a local cause.  God alone knows, the extent of the impact that your efforts will have.  If there is anything for us to learn from this story of humble beginnings, it is that one only needs a little faith in a great God to accomplish amazing feats, even to the moving of mountains.

You think about that…


God Bless You and See You on the Road.


Bob Anton: Christian Motorcyclist Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or


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