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50 cents and Love

By Richard Mathison

Because Nicolosa Donlucas had 50 cents, hands for work, and a heart for love, 103 poor Mexicans celebrated Christmas back in 1959 when this story took place.

Nicolosa, a tiny, work-worn cleaning lady at the Plaza Community Center in Los Angeles, earned $90 a month. She spoke no English, but one summer day the Rev. Nicolas Davila, minister at the Center, told her, in Spanish, the parable of the talents—how from a little, much good could come. And the minister dropped a half dollar into the woman's hand.

"This is a talent," he said. "Use it wisely, and it will increase."

Nicolosa looked at the coin in her work-worn hand and considered the parable. Surely it was more than a story. …

Some days later, Nicolosa timidly approached the minister and handed him $17.50.

"This is for the Center," she said. And she explained how she'd taken the 50 cents and bought cheese and tortillas. She had then made enchiladas and sold them to the neighbors, and continued the operation until she had $35. Half was for the Center and the other half she could use for making more enchiladas after work.

"This is what the story meant, is it not so?" she asked and returned to her work.

One day later, Nicolosa showed the minister a bankbook—she had earned $100 making enchiladas.

The money she earned was not for herself. She knew only too well how many poor there are in Mexico and so she had written to her brother there for the names of 33 orphans in the town of Nochistalin and 33 in the town of San Luis. She also wrote another brother in

Mexico for the names of 33 elderly people who were alone or hungry.

And so when Christmas morning arrived, 66 orphans and 33 old people received a gift from the tiny janitress. There was even a little money left to help brighten the day for four prisoners in Mexican jails.

When Nicolosa told the minister of her plans he had asked, "But why 33 orphans in each of two towns and 33 old people?"

"Because that is the number of years Jesus lived," Nicolosa explained. "I want to say ‘Happy Birthday' to Baby Jesus.

* * *

Peace on earth will come to stay,
When we live Christmas every day.
Helen Steiner Rice

* * *

The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others' burdens, easing others' loads, and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.
—W. C. Jones

* * *

If there is no way to give a festive gift, give love away.

* * *

Topics: Christmas, giving, unselfishness, love

Richard Mathison's story is courtesy of Guideposts.