For the Christian, there is no such thing as a “stranger”.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning when someone found him sitting beneath a tree. They say his heart had just stopped. They believed he was in his mid-fifties, but the local shelter was not sure because he looked much older. He was addicted to alcohol and would sometimes float into the shelter when he needed a shower, something to eat, or just wanted to sleep in a bed. If he was intoxicated he could be very angry and difficult, but when he was sober he was often amiable and remorseful. Most of the community knew him as Rockin’ Rick, but my family knew him as Andy. He was my cousin.
When they discovered Andy sitting under the tree, they did not know if he had family, but in his wallet was my older sister’s name and her phone number. She had given it to him when his mother died several years earlier and let him know that if he needed anything, he could give her a call. Through the next few years, my sister Barb tried to call him from time to time, but he would not answer. Living halfway across the country, our family never heard from Andy again.
After we were notified of Andy’s death, my sister and I traveled to Salem. While there we had the opportunity to meet members from the community, staff and guests from the Mission. We wanted to thank them for their work. They shared stories about Rick. We shared stories of Andy. They gathered in memorial with us to remember him, our Andy, and their Rockin’ Rick. He had led a very troubled life; he could be a difficult and complicated man, but he was part of their community. They accepted him and cared for him when we couldn’t. They became his family.
Like most of the guests who come through our shelters, there are family out there who wonder: Where are they? Are they doing okay? Is there someone looking out for them? Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and cousins who are praying that wherever their loved one is, that someone is taking care of them by helping them to survive and caring for them like family.
The people who come to our community homeless facilities are not strangers, but guests. Neighbors in need. Saint Edith Stein, the Carmelite nun and philosopher executed by the Nazis because of her Jewish ancestry, expressed the Catholic Charities philosophy most beautifully:
For the Christian, there is no such thing as a “stranger”. There is only the neighbor – the person who happens to be next to us, the person most in need of our help. Whether he is related to us or not, whether we “like” him or not, doesn’t make any difference. Christ’s love knows no boundaries, stops at no limits, doesn’t turn away from ugliness and filth (The Mystery of Christmas, pp. 25-26).
Can we count on you to reach out in love to the men and women who seek assistance and refuge at our homeless facilities? Your generous gift today of $25, $50, $100 or more will help keep our community homeless facilities running.
Sincerely in Christ,
Director of Marketing and Communications
The above photo is of me, my siblings, and Andy. Andy is the boy on the left. Please remember him in your prayers. Thank you.