As many of you know, I treasure my opportunity to share a few timely thoughts with you through this section of the news and notes. However, for the first time ever, I’ve invited a former colleague and dear friend of mine, to share her thoughts for this week. Many of you will know her, Gwen Cote. Enjoy!
A Simple Wildflower (Gwen Cote)
For several years I have been involved with a group called Mission of Hope. It is a mission to Nicaragua that was born inSeton Catholic High School in Plattsburgh, NY. After a hurricane hit Nicaragua (Nica), the mudslides were terrible. In this small school in Plattsburgh, there was a family from Nica. The first mission trip was organized in response to that one family’s need. That trip was the birthing of a non-profit that took on a life of its own. Now serving the people of Nica in every way imaginable, from hospitals to eldercare, food to clinics, and education to hope. I had the privilege of making a few trips toNicaragua with Mission of Hope. The learnings were immense.
Several times I was tasked with bringing a bag of rice and a bag of beans to the homeless families living in the woods. It was maybe enough to feed a family of 5 for a week if they had light appetites. We would travel along the dirt road, and wherever there was a worn footpath into the woods, we would walk in and bring our simple treasures to these families. It never ceased to amaze me that before we were even back to the road, we would hear the people calling for other families who were deeper in the woods to come. They were not calling them to come to us to get rice and beans for themselves, but instead, they were calling them to come and share in the bounty they had received.
One day as I was leaving one of the families having delivered rice and beans, I heard someone calling out. When I turned around, I saw a little girl of about 3, stark naked and dirty from head to toe, come running down the path after me. With enormous brown eyes and a smile that overshadowed the filth, she handed me a wildflower, hugged my leg, and whispered, “Gracias, Santa Dama.” Thank you, holy lady. I didn’t feel much like a holy lady. I had given her family perhaps a couple of days’ food. She gave me all she had.
Giving like the poor widow in today’s Gospel, or as a dirty naked child in Nicaragua, is not about how much. Giving is more about the inner freedom to share with others. Giving is an attitude of the heart. It is trusting that open hands will always trump closed fists. It is absolute confidence that when I give, whatever I give, I do so without expectation or strings attached. I don’t give to look good. I don’t give to pat myself on the back. I don’t give to get points in heaven with God. I give because I can. I give because God gives. I give because I am called to be the echo of God in how I live my life.
The Pharisees in the Gospel gave with their hearts closed. They shared with their eyes looking the wrong way. They gave thinking only of themselves and what they wanted. The Pharisees gave to look good and to meet the letter of the law. Their hearts were not in the giving. Their hearts were turned inward and no doubt turning to stone.
This Gospel is a call for us to live with open hands and open hearts. It is from the heart that faithful giving comes. When I live with open hands, I can caress the face of another. I can reach out and help another up when they fall. I can reach out for help when I am afraid, in pain, or sadness overwhelms me with open hands. I reach out in absolute trust, knowing that someone else with open hands will be reaching back. It is only with open hands and open hearts that we become one people, one community, the echo of God’s love on earth.
The widow’s mite is a mighty witness to us and what God calls us to. She gave all that she had. Her attitude of heart was echoed in a wildflower in the hands of a dirty naked 3-year-old. It is reflected in us when we choose to live with open hands and open hearts.
When we embrace the widow within ourselves, we have the power to change our world from one of the Pharisees to the Kingdom of God.
In God’s Unending Love,
And so, let us live and be hope for one another this week… A very Blessed Thanksgiving to all.