It’s 10 o’clock in the morning. Stacks of mail just got dumped on the counter of Hope Channel’s Viewer Services office. Held together by thick rubber bands, it’s an assortment of donations, letters, bank statements, and the usual quota of junk mail. Recently, Carmen has developed a habit of thumbing through each stack, looking for a square envelope with a Philadelphia postmark.
A smile spreads across Carmen’s face as the familiar scrawl on a tidy white envelope emerges from the pile. Happiness and feelings of kinship with an unknown elderly woman from Philly bubble to the surface as she rushes across the hall to show the letter—and two worn $5 bills tucked inside—to a coworker.
“I’ve never met her,” says Carmen. “I don’t even know her name. But I’d recognize her handwriting anywhere. Every few weeks since October 2014 Hope Channel has received a note and some cash from our friend in Philly.”
The envelopes do not include a return address. Cash, from $10 to $30, is wrapped inside unsigned notes of thanks and encouragement. The notes contain just enough information to piece together a picture.
Through the months Hope Channel employees have, in their imagination, made this special, anonymous donor a part of their life at Hope Channel. They call her Mabel. “I imagine Mabel living in a small, two bedroom apartment in a brick building with a deli or a convenience store on the ground floor,” says one employee. “Maybe that’s where she buys the stamps for her envelopes.”
Another employee adds, “I’d like to think she has a desk that faces a small window framed with thin, fluttery curtains she sewed decades ago when her fingers were young and nimble. Her view is not much to look at—across the alley is just another red brick building. But she’s not at her desk for the view. She sits to write her love notes. Her frugality kicks in, and she tears a sheet of paper horizontally into three strips for three short letters. She prays as she writes to those who have made a difference in her life, to those for whom she has concern, to those who are going through difficult times. Then she takes an envelope from a small stack—some are blue, some yellow, some white, but all faded and musty with time.”
“We know that Mabel watches Hope Channel on DirecTV,” says Carmen, emphasizing that this is a fact and not part of her imaginings. “I think it’s cute that she addresses every envelope to ‘Channel 368’ because that’s where she gets Hope Channel on her television.”
The small cash donation she sends seems to indicate that she is on a fixed income. “I wonder if Mabel saves something out of her grocery budget?” a volunteer at Hope Channel asks of the group hovering over the latest square envelope. “Maybe she is like the widow in Jesus’s story—the one who dropped her two mites into the offering (see Mark 12:41–44).”
Regardless of her financial status, Mabel, the anonymous donor, gives out of love and appreciation—and she gives generously from the joy of having found Jesus. In one of her penned notes, she writes, “I watch many of the programs . . . I have learned so much in my elder years.”
“This woman’s letters and donations have let me see how Hope Channel helps lead people to Jesus and His Word—no matter their age,” says Carmen. “And I’m reminded of this Bible text in Psalm 92:13–15: ‘The righteous will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him”’ (NIV).”
Maybe Mabel has a family with whom she’s excitedly sharing her faith. Or maybe she’s alone and Hope Channel has not only brought Jesus into her life, but also keeps her company. Regardless, the verses in Psalm 92 concur with what Mabel writes, “As the saying goes, you are never to old to learn. May God bless you all.”