Sunday, November 15, 2015

Can I Make a Difference?

The modestly-dressed grey-haired woman sat in the pew two rows in front of me, as she did most mornings before mass.  This day, however, she stood up and walked back to me.  “Hello.  My name is Naomi , and I will not be here next week.  Would you please pray for the safety of my travels, and the safety of my mother whom I care for?”  I replied, “Of course,” but then felt a compulsion to ask: “Where are you traveling to?”  “To Africa,” she replied.  “I am going to visit the children I care for there, through the little charity that God asked me to start a couple of years ago.”  And she wrote down the website of the charity for me, so I could read more about it.  And then mass began.
Later, looking at the website, I read how this simple woman --- like any of us, really --- felt called by God to love his children in need in Africa.  And (somewhat like me, I confess) she felt she that she had to verify that need herself: she had to see it, and so she traveled to Africa.  As a result of that first trip she has gone on to help many individuals, including recently a little boy needing surgery to remove a huge tumor on his neck.  She convinced the University of Michigan hospital to donate the surgery, and so she brought him here, found him shelter while he recovered, and is taking him back to his mother.  Neither she nor any of the few others who help her take any salary or cost re-imbursements; they donate their time and money for any administrative or travel costs.  They raise a relatively small amount of money each year, and then ensure it is used to help those in need, that it is put to the most good use --- in Africa.
Naomi had no brochures or business cards to pass out promoting her charity, just her simple website.  I have seen her come to church each morning for years now, and never knew her.  I support many charities, some of which are very far away and remote from me, while here my parish neighbor was working and praying and could really use my help in helping others --- and she was sitting right in front of me.
I’ll drop my monthly support for one of those remote worldwide charities in favor of the one run by this little woman who I see at daily mass.  I WILL love my neighbor, as I am called to do.
This is Naomi’s charity website:
People often ask me what charities I routinely support.  There are many local ones I support with periodic donations, but if you are interested, these are the ones I feel worthwhile enough to support monthly:
All of these charities have one thing in common:  they were started by a single individual (who I know) who thought he/she heard God’s call, and answered --- and through them He has done marvelous deeds (well, in one case it is just a guy starting out; but I expect he will accomplish marvelous deeds).  And through these people many thousands of God’s children have been and are beingloved.  No one in any of these charities makes big salaries; most work very long hours, and they love and are loved.
Who do they help?  They help the unborn (whose lives were saved), unwed mothers, the poor, people who are searching for God, orphans, students on a college campus, people in despair, and people who would like to dedicate their lives to God by entering religious life, but they couldn’t --- but now they can. 
And who are these miracle-workers who have started such wonderful charities?  Well, one was a college student whose boyfriend dumped her; another was an executive vice-president of a global corporation, another was an atheist, alcoholic drug abuser, another was a poor Franciscan friar, another is a recent college grad dissatisfied with the God-bashing college atmosphere, and yet another is a top grad of an Ivy-League college who was quickly earning a large six-figure salary --- and who gave it all up.  Who are they?  They’re young; they’re old; they’re rich; they’re poor; they’re married; they’re religious.  Some have families and work jobs, and some are dedicating their lives to their charity.
And of course, there’s Naomi, caring for her mom --- even as I did mine.
And I can’t forget the organization which I recently volunteered to become involved in, which is just a group of people making modest salaries, working long hours, and being loving people who care for lovable people.  This is their website:
Is God calling you to use your talents for His work?  Can you make a difference?  How many might you help; how many lives --- and souls --- might you save?  How many people are waiting to hug you?  None of these people whose charities I support felt especially religious or important --- or had any idea that God might have some plan for them.  A few DID ask: “Lord, what would you have me do?”  But most just one day found themselves in a strange situation: they saw someone who needed help, and then they began. 
God did the rest.  They are beautiful people, and I feel blessed to know them, and support their work in some small way.

1 comment:

  1. Tom, I spent some time leaving a comment of several paragraphs. Something happened, and it disappeared! I'll come back from supper in 1/2 hour and deal with it then.