Who Am I?

Changing the World, Teen Pregnancies, and Food Banks

Posted: May 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Faith, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Changing the World, Teen Pregnancies, and Food Banks

I was reading Father Stephen’s post, To Change the World, and a number of different thoughts and emotions came to mind. I want to start with this quote:

But we cannot measure the Church and its life by its effect on the Kingdoms of this world. Sometimes we seem to have a great effect, sometimes we get martyred. In all times we are subject to the mercy of Christ and the workings of His salvation within the life of the world.

The example he uses to illustrate that point particularly struck home with me. When you’re a teen parent, especially one with few resources, you learn to swallow your pride. You learn to endure whatever you need to endure to obtain what you need for your family. But you do not remember those acts as acts of goodness or of love. When you do encounter actual goodness, real love, it sticks with you. Forever.

I remember when I was seventeen and working in Monroe, LA digging trenches and laying cablevision cable. We tried to share a house with a couple I worked with, but they decided it was too expensive and bailed to an apartment by the paper mills in West Monroe. (Gotta love the smell of paper mills in the morning!) We left that house as well since we couldn’t afford it by ourselves (leases don’t mean much when you have nothing) and took the first place we could find that we could afford, a tiny two room (yes, that’s two room, not two bedroom) house that had once been a parsonage, rented by the pastor and his wife of said church. (I have no memory whatsoever what church it might have been.) We did move in and water was included in the rent. So that was good. But we had zip left over to have the electricity turned on. You can manage without electricity and we had before, so we managed. When you have a baby, a roof and running water are the first things you worry about. Food for your child is second.

Perhaps a week to ten days later, the pastor’s wife stopped by while I was at work to see how things were going. When she discovered that we didn’t have electricity, she immediately took my first wife and daughter down to the electric company, wrote the check for the deposit, and made sure they turned on the electricity that same afternoon. It was quite a surprise for me when I finally got home after dark. (I tended to be out digging trenches until it was too dark to see many days.)

Those are the acts you remember. I doubt they remember us at all. We were in their lives for such a short period of time and we never really got to know each other. But that simple act of kindness and love has remained with me to this day. To be honest, if it weren’t for a trail of such acts through a period of my life where I had a pretty negative opinon about Christianity, I might not be Christian today. I do also remember the evil Christians did to me, but I was never able to say they were all like that. Because of people like that pastor’s wife, who would not take no for an answer. The kindness of strangers is nothing to sneer at.

While there are exceptions, when you act in an effort to control another person, even if “for their own good”, it’s not an act of love. God does not act that way toward us. He does not overpower us, though he may reveal himself to us. Even in that revelation, we have the freedom to say no. God does not manipulate us. Other than love, God does not have an agenda.

I wish that were more often true of Christians. Back when I attended and paid attention to the “business meetings” of our church (and that was years ago), I remember being somewhat repelled by the rules and forms and conditions our food pantry placed on our offering. Yes, I’m sure many people will go through whatever hurdles we set in order to get food. I’ve been in those shoes. I have not forgotten. Perhaps because I’ve been on the receiving end, I had a really hard time seeing the “caritas” in that approach. I’m sure that’s why I was so captivated by that portion of Sara Miles book, take this bread.

In his post, Father Stephen says this:

Is it good to help someone finish school? I think so.

Even that is bittersweet to me. Yes, I agree it is. But as I attended my Mom’s graduation last weekend (now both parents have doctorates and my brother has his Master’s degree), there were several things that caused me to pause and recognize that the last graduation I had was my graduation from 8th grade. I did get my GED. I have almost enough hours for my bachelor’s degree. But I’ve yet to actually have a graduation. I’ve been very fortunate. But still … I think it is good to help someone finish school.

Read Father Stephen’s post. And perhaps, instead of trying to change the world, simply try to actually do whatever good might cross your path on any given day.

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