Friday, November 27, 2009

The Day After

As I sit here still in a coma from overindulgence of carbs, I'm laughing at the number of text messages my sister got at dinner from cooks who had an assortment of turkey disasters to relate - from the frozen- in- the- middle turkey to the person who forgot to remove the giblet bag. Too funny.

At any rate, once the guests left and I could collapse on the couch in front of the Broncos/Giants game, I was appalled to see one ad after another hawking a 4am bugle call for shoppers on the hunt for bargains. I'm not one for Black Friday shopping so the last place you'd ever see me is in line at Wal-Mart in the wee hours ready to pounce. This practice is one of the saddest I associate with the Christmas season. How many of the folks in line do YOU think will even take the time to go to Mass on Sunday or better yet, get in line for Confession on Christmas Eve? Some year I would like to get to one of these greed-fests and hand out little cards reminding people of the Reason for the Season. Until then, I'm content to do my part by refusing to participate in the commercial version of Christmas.

Before coming home to the Catholic Church some years ago, I attended an Anglo-catholic, or Episcopal, church which had a very strong outreach program for the homeless. It was the tradition to hold a breakfast on the Saturday before Christmas for all of the soup-kitchen regulars and present them with gift bags of items needed for survival on the streets. One year, I got put in charge of this which essentially means you go out and buy everything that everyone else forgot to get. It was exhausting but it pretty much changed the way I had always looked at Christmas. Sure, there were the few who probably didn't really need what was in the gift bag but a good many of the men were genuinely grateful and touched that someone remembered them. A few were in tears. The gift bag contained a change of underwear, thermal underwear, hat and gloves, toiletries and a rain poncho. It also contained a little baggie full of homemade Christmas cookies. You would think from the reaction that we were giving away 20 dollar bills.

It is said that it's better to give than to receive. What's not said is that when you give genuinely from the heart, you receive something to which nothing can compare. As Mother Teresa said, Christ is there, present in the distressing disguise of the poor, and when we minister to such people, we heed His call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned. For those who might be tempted to call me a bleeding heart liberal, allow me to share this with you.

Yesterday, I realized I had no whipped cream for the pumpkin pie so I abandoned my post in the kitchen to make a quick run to the ACME. I ran into a man I had met there a few years ago who offered to carry bags for change. I enjoyed talking to Nate as we walked to my car and one day I asked him what put him on the street. He told me it was a combination of drugs and alcohol and how much he would love to be free of both demons. He also wanted nothing more than a real job but with no address, he couldn't get the documentation he needed to get one. I did a little investigating and found out about Ready, Willing and Able - the Doe Fund that helps people like Nate get back on their feet. I asked Nate how ready he was to change his life and he assured me he was. The Doe Fund got him into rehab and then gave him a place to live and a low-paying job. When they felt he was ready, they sent him to a halfway house and found him another low-paying job. Now he's clean enough to live with his sister and while he doesn't earn enough money to be able to afford a place of his own, he isn't drinking or taking drugs and he told me he had been looking for me for months to share his good news with me. In reality, I had nothing at all to do with Nate's success. All I did was simply allow Christ to act through me in helping one of the least ones among us. I thank Him for putting Nate in my path.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for one day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

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