The month of November brings with it for me a time to reflect on and express my gratitude for the many ways God blesses me and those I live and work with in a multitude of ways. It also reminds me of the why and how I’ve been blessed and the why and how I do what I do to bless others. I really do try to do what I do and say what I say in as loving a way as I can when the occasion arises. Since my ministry here at St. V’s gives me many opportunities to help the poor, the dying, and underserved, I have plenty of chances to do so in as loving a way as I am able. St. Vincent de Paul’s words quoted on this page cause me to pause each time I reach out to the poor and hope and pray that I do so in love because I’m aware that in helping them, I may need to be forgiven for the “bread I give them.” To me it boils down to how the “bread” is given. It’s an attitude thing.
Helping others does put us in the position of profound power over the other. If we do it with kindness, “the divine comes alive in us” as John O’Donohue says. He builds on what Jesus said about what’s important at the end of life when we will be judged on whether we cared lovingly for those in need. And those in need will also be judging us as we provide food, clothing, money, etc. by how much they perceive our motivation for helping them, for caring for them in a myriad of ways.
Over the years, I have volunteered at a few “kitchens for the poor,” and I became very aware of how the guests were able to sense the love and care that came with the food as well as the very way in which it was served. I could see their faces light up when they were greeted with a smile and asked what they wanted rather than having someone plop something on the plate without even looking at them. How we do something is as important as why we do it.
In this month, when many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day and perhaps serving a festive dinner to the poor whether they be strangers or even some of our family members, let’s take some time to reflect on the profound power we have by caring for others with love and compassion. It is after all how we will be judged at the end of our lives, and it is how the poor will be able to forgive us for our kindness to them. Who knows? We may be the one who brings healing and life to them.
Sister Mary Thill is a Sylvania Franciscan Sister. She is Patient Liaison for Mature Health Connections at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center. She can be reached at 419-251-3600.
In the kindness of care, the divine comes alive in us.
The only thing that matters
for our final judgment
is whether we cared lovingly for those in need.
+Jesus the Christ
A caring presence has profound power.
Thank you, God, for those whose compassionate presence brings us healing and life.
Help them feel your love as they care for us.
It is only because of your love—only your love—
that the poor will forgive you
the bread you give them.
+St. Vincent de Paul