February 27, 2012Give 8-year-old Megan Miller a marker, a sketchpad and a cause, and leave the rest to her.
Written by Daniel Hazard
Written by Daniel Hazard
A creative, compassionate member of Grace UCC in Lebanon, Pa., Megan was greatly concerned about children affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011. She wanted to raise money for relief efforts. So in May 2011, the Millers rallied fellow members of Grace.
Ranging in age from 1 to 13, a total of 20 youngsters participated in "Kids Art for the Children of Japan." They offered a variety of artwork, 57 framed pieces in all, put them on display and raised $703.
"We involved everyone from church, making it a real team effort," said Michelle Miller, Megan's mother. "The children arranged to have people donate items for a bake sale the same day. How can you possibly say no to those little faces?"
Megan - whose generosity has attracted local TV and print news media coverage - embodies the notion of sharing embodied by the UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering. The refugee, relief and development offering of the UCC, OGHS responds to disaster-relief efforts on average every two-and-a-half days. It raises funds for disaster relief through members and friends of the UCC.
"I couldn't believe all the people that came to our art sale," said Megan, who lets her muse run free when drawing or painting. "I drew a robin in a tree, I drew a house … It's actually lots of things that I like to draw. I look at something, I get inspired by it, and I draw it."
Pens, markers, crayons, paints - the medium doesn't matter much to Megan. "I use any kind of material that you can use," she said.
Sharing and caring are as central to Megan's being as her blue eyes and bright smile. She is a fourth-generation member of the church; her great-grandfather was one of its pastors; and her 92-year-old grandmother remains active in its women's group. When Megan was 3, her father, Ron, was diagnosed with neck cancer.
"She experienced a lot of things because it was only the three of us at home," said Michelle. "Ron had a feeding tube when he was going through radiation, and she helped me pour his nutrition from a can into a feeding tube."
"And she went with us to Philadelphia for his treatments – I think those kinds of things, because she was so young, made her more sensitive to others," Michelle said. "I don't know that she remembers a lot of those life experiences in particular, but I think it did mold her into a sensitive person."
Megan says the best part of attending church on Sunday is spending the second part of the service "back in the nursery, where we can draw and eat. We don't actually learn anything," she explains, "but we get to do puzzles and draw, and it's really fun."
As if further testament to her creativity was needed, Megan's favorite subject in school is what many consider a dying art. "Cursive handwriting," she said without hesitation. "We are learning cursive, and cursive is my favorite."
Megan and her mother have been thinking about the next wide-scale work of sharing.
"I work for an AIDS foundation for children, and Megan has a great interest in that," said Michelle. "She had talked about maybe doing it for the kids in Africa, but then there was a house fire here in Lebanon city a couple of weeks ago, where several children were displaced. So I think maybe instead of Africa, we'll go more local this time."
Meanwhile, with the Lenten season just beginning, Megan is planning for its conclusion.
"Maybe - just maybe - for Easter, me and my friends come over to my church, with my dance teacher, and do a little religious dance," she said. "So we could raise some money with that, too."
For more information on One Great Hour of Sharing, visit www.ucc.org/oghs.