Last week, Rosie and I delivered a carload of supplies from the birthday donation drive for the Friendship Room: toilet paper, breakfast cereal, granola bars, socks. Rosie had personally packed up the backpacks for the homeless with snacks, a menstrual supplies kit, a shower kit, nail clippers, a rain poncho and a tuna salad lunch kit. I’d tucked a colorful card in each one; they were printed with encouraging phrases. “We love you. Hang in there. I hope things get better.” My readers bought all of those treasures. We didn’t pay a cent. All we did was move them around. Rosie packed the backpacks, I sorted the other gifts and put the cards in envelopes, and Michael toted them to the car when the menacing neighbor was looking the other way.
There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Every work of mercy is from God. God scatters the world with all the beautiful gifts we need to stay alive, free of charge. It’s our job to move them around. And that is the most joyful, glorious job imaginable. The spirit of the world demands to make it a burden and a chore, but it’s not. It’s fun. I want to do it every day for the rest of my life, and I want to proclaim how fun it is to the whole world.
The volunteers were sitting on the porch, chatting with their neighbors. They rushed out to the car and whisked all the things inside before I got more than a moment to say “hello.” And we were off in the Neighborhood Trolley, driving in the golden sun of a pristine Ohio Valley autumn.
I found myself singing some ridiculous praise and worship song I’d learned at the university. “Let your liiiiiiight shiiiiiiine for all the world to see. The brightness of your life within, the peace that sets you free. Let your liiiiiiiight shiiiiiiine for all your nights and days, and all will see the good you do and give your father praise.” I wanted all the world to see the brightness of what my friends and family online had done for me for my birthday, and for the people suffering in downtown Steubenville. I wanted the world to see what the Father had done for us.
Rosie and I went to the grocery store the long way, through downtown Steubenville and up Lincoln to Sinclair, so we could admire the Autumn trees. Then we went home to finish our homeschooling, and I got online.
I found out then, that the Friendship Room had lost one of their regular guests.
She died of a heroin overdose.
She left behind three little children who have no one.
My heart went up into my throat, and then it dropped.
It is still dropping.
If it dropped until the end of time, that still wouldn’t be grief enough.
I don’t know what to do about this, except to tell you: things like this are happening under your feet. They happen all the time. They’re happening right now.
People in desperate straits are turning to drugs. Once they turn to drugs, they’re doomed, because society has opted to vilify and abandon them. The vilest of people take advantage of them. They end up trafficked and tortured. They die. Poor people starve. People freeze on the street or in unheated homes in winter. People die of heat stroke and thirst in the summer.
Mothers are dying.
Children are left alone.
The world is darker than dark.
It isn’t dark because God wants it to be dark. God keeps scattering the world with bright and beautiful things to keep us alive and make us happy. But powerful people keep grabbing and hoarding them, so the poor are left with nothing, and this happens.
This is why you have to bring the light.
Whatever light God has given you, share it.
Go to the places where there isn’t any light, and be light. Go to the people who don’t have enough to survive, and help them survive.
No, it isn’t fair. People much more powerful than us have committed much more injustice than we can undo. But we have to work at it anyway. We have to do as much good as we can.
Thank you again to everyone who participated in my donation drive. We’re going to do another one during Advent; I’ll have that one planned out pretty soon. And in the meanwhile, here are some other wonderful places serving the homeless that need help.
Let your light shine for all the world to see.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.