Hello! Did you think I’d gone away? It’s been almost a month since the last time I posted, which as you probably know is not the best thing for a blogger to do. Tends to diminish traffic considerably.
However (and I suspect many moms can relate to this), there are times when life kind of takes over and squeezes out all the “extras.” This, compounded by the fact that I’ve been dealing with some things in my own life that — until I had processed them a bit — I didn’t feel ready to write about. Even now, I’m not sure it’s “soup yet,” but as someone pointed out to me recently, I tend to be someone who processes things best in writing. So here goes.
Some weeks ago, I met up with a young woman and her five adorable children. The “how” is less important than the fact that she and her family have gotten me thinking a great deal about how we as a society treat the poor and marginalized in our society. On the surface, “Sherry” is someone who made some bad choices early in life, which are still weighing her down. She has no job, few resources, no car . . . and her friends and family have precious little to spare.
She loves her kids. She dresses the warmly, and feeds them even when she herself is not eating. She has shown great ingenuity in finding public resources to pay for food and shelter. But without a car, even the simplest task such as registering the children for school becomes an exercise in frustration. Her two cousins moved closer to her, to help her out . . . but neither of them has been able to find work, and one of them is still trying to get his GED.
Now for the part I’ve been trying to figure out: What does charity (in the best sense of the word) look like in this situation? My own resources are not infinite, my time is also limited … and, as cute as they are, these children and their family are not my responsibility. So, what is the Christian response?
Surely not, “Well, she made this mess … let her clean it up herself!” (I’ve heard that one already.)
Possibly, “Let her ask you for what she needs.” (Which allows her to control her situation — but could create an unhealthy dependency.)
Possibly, “Just be a friend, and listen.” (This is easier than it sounds, when you find five children living in a trailer with empty cupboards that reeks of feral cat urine.)
This is a situation long on drama and short on answers, I know. Even as I write this, I keep coming back to the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jesus always expressed a preference for the poor, the fatherless and the outcast. He especially loved the children.
At times like this, I wish I could sit down with Blessed Mother Teresa (our priest gave a homily about her life today, tying it in with the parable of the mustard seed and the faithful servant). When she looked around and saw those hundreds of children who could not be adequately cared for, how did she prioritize? In a word . . . she kept her eyes on Jesus. Each day was an opportunity to dispense moments of grace. She could not solve the problem entirely. Some could argue that she was unable even to put an appreciable dent in the need.
But oh, how she loved. “Do small things with great love,” she’d say.
Lord, let me be like that.
Wow–that is a hard one, and certainly you know that you can’t fix this all on your own.
Maybe something you could do is just get her a grocery-store gift card now and again. You know it will be put to good use. You can even give that anonymously if it would spare her dignity (just mail it to her!)
And there is always the “when you are able, offer her something specific.” Like a phone call–I’m taking my kids over to the library on Thursday at 4; would you and your family like a ride over?
I struggle with that myself… and seem to have an abundance of opportunities to practice the virtue of charity, whether or not I do. So much so, that it seems everywhere I look someone is writing about it, talking about it, or, sadly, presenting me with yet another chance for me to exercise it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t (followed by guilt of course, and even anger at myself, or anger at the situation, or just anger at injustice in general). It’s good to read about your own struggle, to know that we are all human in that vacillation that strikes us. And especially to put a lovely perspective on it from Mother Teresa. I want to be like that, too.
Thanks, and good to see you back.
Thanks, Barb and Maria, for taking time to write! Based on some recent developments, I’ve decided that it is unwise for me just to keep bringing in groceries. (She has several able-bodied adults who are turning down work opportunities that don’t pay “well enough.”)
So, instead I’ll bring in Sherry and the kids in for a good meal from time to time — and continue to let her clean if and when she calls and says she needs cash. If there are school-related expenses, I can help with those. But in this case, I intend to follow the words of St. Paul, “If he will not work, neither let him eat!”
I’ll keep you posted.