Title: Cups Held Out
Author: Judith L. Roth
Illustrator: Brooke Rothshank
Publisher: Herald Press (September 13, 2006)
Audience: ages 4 and up
Summary: A young girl and her father cross the border into Mexico where she encounters poverty for the first time. Her father admits his own struggles to find an appropriate response to the poverty that exists just miles from their home. Will a few coins or a dollar bill dropped into an outstretched cup or hand make a difference in a life? Will the purchase of a blanket in a local shop make a difference in a community? Together the girl and her father ponder what they can do to help.
Literary elements at work in the story : Told in a narrative form, this story allows us to see real poverty through the eyes of a young girl. Illustrated in pastel hues and clean colored pencil lines, the artwork beautifully depicts the faces of people reaching out to each other for help. Both the language and illustrations make this a book about people who are real rather than a “cause” or “situation” that simply exists in the abstract.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a story of two worlds located just a few miles apart. A white American girl from San Diego who lives comfortably in a middle-class neighborhood in contrast to Mexican beggars who struggle to survive life on the streets in Ensenada, Mexico. While their circumstances are quite opposite, both groups are beautifully and respectfully depicted. This is a book designed to open discussion between parents and children and between mission teams and churches who want to reach out in meaningful mission to help those in need. A word of caution: this book may illicit strong emotions of sadness, pity, and guilt – especially for those who have never experienced poverty up close and personal. In fact, the father admits that he wasn’t “ready” when he visited Mexico for the first time as a youth. But he wants his daughter to see for herself what poverty looks like in hopes that they can work together in finding ways to help others. On this trip they go “ready” with small amounts of money to hand out and additional money set aside for purchases from local stores. Are their efforts enough to make a difference? They don’t know, but they are willing to try as they search together for a better plan. No, this book does not offer answers – but it does set forth a reality that exists around the world and serves as a discussion starter for those who want to reach out and help others in the name of Jesus Christ.
Theological Conversation Partners: Jesus was often surrounded by beggars and told his disciples, “the poor will always be with you.” (Matthew 26:11) When confronted by the roadside beggar outside the city of Jericho, Jesus stopped to talk with the man asking, “What do you want me to do?” (Luke 18:35-43) Jesus was often moved with compassion for the poor, the sick, and those who had been treated unjustly. In Luke, even Mary’s opening song strikes a chord for the poor and hungry (Luke 1:46-55). Using his favorite title for Jesus (“Son of Man”) 25 times, Luke reveals him as a true servant of all humanity. Luke 4 shows Jesus boldly declaring why he came to earth. Jesus had just resisted temptations of wealth and power, and returned from the desert to his hometown. There Jesus, a local village boy, announced his unique mission from God: to preach good news to the poor, to free prisoners, heal the blind, and release the oppressed. (Luke 4:18-19) With little editorial comment, Luke followed Jesus from town to town focusing on how Jesus fulfilled his mission with compassion and love, stopping to talk, touch, and relate to everyone he met. Serving as a model for those today who want to engage in meaningful mission, Jesus shows us how to stop and take time to reach out to those in need with God’s love that can transcend any barrier that threatens to divide.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Have you ever encountered someone asking for money on the street? What did they look like? What did they say to you? How did you respond?
- Consider some of the reasons that people may find themselves in need: a lost job, a dangerous home situation, an unexpected illness or injury, or other changes in life circumstances. How can you be sensitive to the situations that cause people to become homeless or hungry?
- What can you (individually, as a family, or as a church) do to help those in need? Brainstorm together ways that you can engage in meaningful, relational ministry.
- What organizations in your community are making a positive impact in the lives of those in need? How can you become a part of their efforts?
This review was written by regular contributor Krista Lovell.
Cups Held Out by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.