Thank you all for your prayers and support as I traveled to Chicago on Thanksgiving week to see my son graduate from Navy Boot Camp. I traveled with my daughter-in-law, Karen, and we arrived in Chicago a few days before graduation. It was—literally—freezing cold. We had a really nice time anyway and were told by a local waitress that it was “sweater weather”. LOL!
The day before I left, I was at church all day handing out Advent Devotional books. So I had Advent on my mind. I was thinking about it being a season of giving, but not really about presents. Giving thanks for all we have and all we are, giving praise to God for all His majesty, giving back to our families, our church, our community.
As we wandered the streets of Chicago, we were approached by a man who had seen better days. He showed me a picture of his 10-year old daughter. He said he just got out of rehab (for alcohol addiction) and had a half-way house lined up but it wouldn’t be available for 2 days. It was already about 6 p.m. and getting even colder by the minute. He went on to say that he had found a “flea bag hotel” that would take him, but he didn’t have the money for the night. I hear these stories all the time in the Parish Office. In Oceanside, a flea bag hotel costs about $60 for one night! I gave the man a twenty. I felt bad that I couldn’t give more, but at least it would help him reach his goal. He wiped his eyes before the tears began falling and said that the hotel was $18. He would have enough to get a cup of hot coffee!
The next morning, we were going to take a tour of the town that started at the Corner Bakery. Just outside the front door was a man who had REALLY seen better days. He had a donation cup in his hands. I was walking past him and he said, “coffee with cream and 2 sugars?” I returned a few minutes later with his coffee. I think—in the short term—he was happier with the coffee so he could warm up.
That afternoon I was approached by a woman who had a suitcase and said she needed money for the train to get home to her family. I gave her $10.
After these encounters, I thought about a story that we do not hear in Advent. We hear it as we prepare for Easter. It’s the story of Peter denying Jesus three times. I gratefully thanked God that I was presented with the opportunity to affirm him (three times, of course).
My mother always said “there but for the grace of God go I”. I think about that almost every day as I encounter so many people who are less fortunate than I. When I talk with them, I find that most have not chosen the path they are on. Some have fallen victim to uncontrolled mental illness, others have become destitute from astronomical medical bills, others from a divorce. Most are estranged from their families. During this Season of Giving, please remember these people who are suffering daily from loneliness, hunger, the cold. And thank God that you have been so richly blessed!
OK—you’ve been patient—the update on my son. The graduation ceremony was full of pageantry, pomp and circumstance, patriotic pride, and proud families for their sons and daughters.
The moment I saw Jens, I could tell that my boy was now a man! What a moment! I’m sure everyone else was feeling the same thing. It makes sense if you’ve sent off your recent high school graduate, but it was just as true for my 30 year old son.
Karen’s parents joined us for the day, and we all ate and talked and shared stories. We wanted to know all the details, but of course, many are never to be shared.
After awhile, Jens and I were able to sit alone together. He whispered that he would be getting new dog tags when he reached Pensacola for his training. They would indicate that he is a Catholic! He, of course, shared this with his wife as well. On the plane ride home, Karen told me that she was now open to having their marriage con-validated (civil marriage blessed by the Church). TY God!
God is good. He bestows so many blessings on us—some in our time and some in His time. Be patient and give thanks freely. (God is good!)