by Biblical authors and the men of CARITAS, typed by C. Page Highfill
“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him,
saving your critical comments for yourself.
You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.
Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed.
Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.
If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”
Galatians 6:1-3 (MSG)
These verses remind me to thank God for CARITAS. Thanks also to our RRCB community of faith and leaders like Deb Gray, Mary Iva Jones, other volunteers and supporting Sunday school classes for making this uplifting CARITAS opportunity truly work. Monday, October 16, 2017 was the Friendship Class’ occasion to provide and serve dinner to our CARITAS friends and become again part of their network of supporters. This time I asked if I might mingle with the CARITAS men during and after dinner to get to know them better; and possibly pass on some glimpses gained from the many stories in this room. That being ok’d, I moved among the dining tables and eventually sat with a number of them. I opened with simple questions, then most importantly I listened… even during paused silences, there were good reasons to keep listening.
I met a 19-year-old, Moses (not his real name). To me he is still a young Moses whose basket has not yet been discovered floating down the river. For a while he lived with his mother in a small house. He prefers not to remember much of his early childhood. Then recently, they lost the house in a repossession. His mother wound up in a shelter, and later he was accepted in CARITAS, hopefully the beginning of a possible basket-discovery. Currently he is still stunned, confused, and not familiar with the word “hope.” He is starved for love and friendship. I wanted to give him a hug, but knew that would embarrass him among the men, so I didn’t. Imagine when you were 19, how difficult it would have to be, to cause you to feel that way.
Then, I met Job (also not his real name). He is an open, patient and friendly 54 or so year-old man wearing camouflaged pants, and walking with a slight limp. As I greeted him, he immediately began to apologize about his leg which he lost earlier. I questioned, “in the army?” He said no, in an accident. He wanted me to know that he is supposed to get a new more correctly-fitted leg this Wednesday. I nodded a smile and told him, looks like he is doing very well. That thought must have made him think of his granddaughter, as he reached for his wallet and started flipping through it, as he said, “Let me show you a photo of my granddaughter.” “Sure,” I said. He found it and aimed it gently over at me to see. “She IS very beautiful,” I said, “…about 15?” “16,” he smile-grinned, and uttered, proudly. “I’m a very lucky man. I’ve done a lot of stupid things over the years, paid for most of them, and still trying.” “You have a wonderful attitude,” I nodded to him.
“Well, thanks.” He said. “You know what Winston Churchill said about attitude?” I asked. “Nope.” He said. “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Then, I added, “Have you had times when you felt a strong presence of God around you?” He responded immediately, “Yes, most of the time. I know He is there, always.” This gentleman was a pleasure to be around, and a credit to CARITAS as a possible helper.
Suddenly, one of the helpers yell-announced, “We’ve found a watch, anyone missing a watch?” After a pause, one of the CARITAS men (who I named Milton, after Milton Berle), yell-asked back, “Is it a Rolex?” Laughs followed. Actually, that helped the group relax. Still the over-hanging need here remains as clearly unfolded in Matthew 25.
“I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.”
“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about?
When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help? “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
Matthew 25:42-45 (MSG)
Let’s continue to pray for and help these men and others being overlooked, ignored, or oppressed. Maya Angelou once said, “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” She also said, “Nothing works unless you do.” Amen.