My mother was a very wise woman. She many times said to me “There but for the Grace of God go I.”
I always understood the gist of it, but I was an adult before I had a true understanding. But the reality is that I didn’t REALLY understand it until recently.
Working in a downtown church office, we’ve “seen it all”. We get people from every walk of life stopping in to see us. We can’t help everyone. I have a “service temperament” and that’s hard for me. I always want to help and fix. But I can’t. What I CAN do, though, is offer myself. I try to spend a few minutes with each person and restore some human dignity to them. Some just need to have someone not scoot them out the door for once! It’s really amazing sometimes how little it takes to give a person some encouragement.
Over the years, I have come to know many of our clients on a more personal level. One man (I’ll call him Tom) came in one day and was jubilant that he had just turned 62. He said he could now receive Social Security and get an apartment. He had been living on the street for over twenty years. I congratulated him and then was perplexed. Tom, I said, what did you do for your career that you now will receive enough to pay for an apartment? Especially since you haven’t worked in twenty years? Tom explained that he had been in the aerospace industry ever since he graduated from college. He had married and had the perfect life. The stress became too much after awhile. He got depressed and it went untreated. Eventually he lost he job and then lost his wife. With no means of support (financially or emotionally) he ended up on the street. He said this was what he needed at the time because he didn’t have obligations or commitments. He could regroup and heal. He shared that he was actually scared now to be taking on something so life-changing. I haven’t seen him in awhile, but I pray that Tom is adjusting to his new life.
My point in sharing Tom’s story is that it is a perfect example of “There but for the Grace of God go I.” Even if we don’t have it ALL—the perfect family, the perfect job, the pool in the back yard—we have many blessings, but it could take very little for everything to fall apart.
We need to be cognizant every day of how blessed we really are. And trust me, every cloud DOES have a silver lining. And when a door closes, a window opens. There are always lessons to be learned and opportunities are presented to us that we wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise. My message here is twofold.
One: Pay attention to all you have been given. This includes your God-given talents and charisms and all the good you have received during your life. BE GRATEFUL. Express your gratitude to God.
Two: Consider supporting our Feed My People ministry at the parish. It is through this ministry that we help those on the street with sack lunches, bus passes, assistance with prescriptions. It also allows us to provide groceries each month to families with homes and cooking facilities.
If you don’t want to help through our parish’s program, find another. We are called, especially in this Extraordinary YEAR OF MERCY to reach out to others. Read through the Corporal Works of Mercy which are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. Ask God to give you direction. (Remember Intentional Prayer?) You will be amazed at the GRACE OF GOD that you will receive as well as those your efforts benefit.