So, I was going to write about all the travels that I’ve been doing lately. I mean, I’ve gotten to do a lot. I spent a weekend at St. Mary of the Woods for my orientation as a Providence Associate. That was an awesome opportunity to grow closer to God. I then spent last weekend, actually 5 days, in Dallas for a Ministry Conference. I got to see cool people, family and friends that I have been missing and wanting to see. I’ve had so many blessings lately and I wanted to tell you all about that. But then, today, I was reading my facebook news feed and something else more important was re-iterated to me in a way that I feel like I have to tell you about it.
One of my good friends from college is also one of my heroes. Her name is Genevieve. I call her Genna. And Genna is a teacher in the poorest school district at the poorest grade school in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Yes, I know, we talk a lot about poverty at the BCC. We’re Catholic and part of Catholic Social Teaching is preferential option for the poor. But let me tell you about this poverty.
One of the students in the bilingual class at Gena’s school lost his shoes the other day.
Who knows where or why, he’s a five year old boy. That happens. The problem is, they were his only pair of shoes. His mother sent him to school in slippers. The school said that wasn’t appropriate footwear and he had to go home until he had real shoes. His mom can’t buy shoes until the middle of the month at payday. It’s the beginning of the month now. This kid is going to have to stay home from school for a week—in kindergarten, an important year where missing a week is like missing a month—because his mom can’t buy shoes. And that’s not to mention that he probably gets the majority of his food at school. So now, he has no shoes and he’s hungry. And the school district can’t do a thing about it, because they can’t even put paper in the classrooms. The teachers have to buy their own supplies. And let me tell you, these teachers don’t get paid much.
Guys, this is not okay.
My first instinct was to ask Genna what size shoes I need to buy this kid. I mean, I can’t do a lot to change the world, but I can get this kid shoes so he can go to school. Genna can’t do it—the school doesn’t pay her enough to keep her own kids in nice shoes, much less put shoes on her students. I’m still waiting to find out about his shoe size. I know there are several other friends of Genna who are waiting for the same thing. One of us will get him shoes. And when we do, he will go to school. And someday, I pray, he will change the world and then, maybe there won’t be any kids without shoes.
But my buying a pair of shoes doesn’t really solve the problem.
The problem is, I live in a house with nine other people. Between all of us, there are probably over hundred pairs of shoes in this house. And there are probably over a hundred kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex whose shoes are too small or too big and cause blisters or too worn to keep their feet warm. Why? Why is it that in the richest nation in the world in the 21st century this is still happening? And forget Dallas, my old home, what about Indianapolis? What about our city, the one in which we attend school and live at least 9 months out of the year? What about the kids in our schools?
I imagine it’s not much different.
We need to reevaluate our lives, people.
I have been talking about Nazareth Farm (where the BCC will be taking our Alternative Spring Break trip next semester) a lot lately. That’s because a) I love it and b) I want you to go and love it, too. One of the four cornerstones of Nazareth Farm is simplicity. Let’s talk about simplicity for a moment.
Simplicity seems to mean something different for every person. One person can say they’re living in simplicity while they have a flat screen tv and a dvr (I would question this person and their idea of need). The next person might be living in a tiny house (check out Tumbleweed Tiny Houses if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and own less than 100 items (I can’t do that—sorry, my books are really important to me). Whatever you think simplicity is, we are called to it. As we say at Naz Farm, we are called to live simply so that others may simply live.
During the month of November, I would like to both invite and challenge you to try to live more simply. Maybe that means not going out for that burger, ordering that pizza or those insomnia cookies. Maybe that means that instead of buying a new scarf, you’re going to use the one you bought last year. Same for that new coat and those new mittens. Maybe you’ll look in your closet, count the number of pairs of shoes you own and donate a dollar for every pair to the BCC Christmas Family Adoption fund. If you don’t have a lot of shoes, but find yourself buying a lot of something else, maybe you’ll match that. Maybe you’ll tell Mom and Dad that instead of yet another new blouse or new boots, you want to donate that money somewhere else. Maybe you’ll participate in the Tech Fast and see where, without the temptation of entertainment technology, you really do have enough time to volunteer, to serve, to change the world. Maybe. I can’t make that decision for you. I can only decide for me.
As we begin November, I notice a lot of Christmas stuff in the stores. It’s a little early for it, but I am starting to be in a Christmas mindset. Christmas reminds me of my Uncle Tim, who I never met. He died from cancer at the age of 18 almost three years before I was born. But my uncle had a saying and it was passed on to me. Around Christmas, when he wanted something, he would say, “In the spirit of Christmas, which is love, please ___.”
In the spirit of Christmas, which is love…. Perhaps it would be better to say, “In the spirit of CHRIST, which is love.” Because He was love. He was not just love the noun, but love the verb. Suddenly the question at Christmas becomes the same as the question we must ask ourselves every day all year round: How do I, Kaitlyn Willy, love better? How do we, the Butler Catholic Community, love better? How do you, reader, love better?
To answer that, this year, in place of buying each other gifts, my community is adopting a local family and giving them Christmas. And by Christmas, I don’t mean they’re getting a bunch of toys (though I might slip a few in). Primarily, I’m shopping for PJs, undies, socks, and bras for an elderly grandma and her daughter and clothes to keep their three babies warm. This family will be way more excited about these clothes—which won’t be all that nice and certainly won’t be name-brand items—than I have ever been about a Christmas gift. Need does that to people, it makes them find joy in the simple things.
In keeping with this spirit of love, the BCC Service Committee and Leadership Team have decided to adopt two families for Christmas. I mentioned this above, in the “maybe” paragraph. I’m serious, friends—count those shoes, those lattes, those whatever-you-spend-your-money-ons. Donate a dollar for each one you have. Or, donate five dollars, ten dollars, whatever you can muster. Ask mom or dad or grandma to give you your Christmas money early—donate it. Make a difference.
And, if you really want to keep it up, go to Nazareth Farm. Live simply so that others may simply live. Do as Christ calls us to in the reading for tomorrow: love your neighbor as yourself. Change the world.
When people ask me to describe my students, I say that they all want to save the world. Guess what, friends—this is how you change the world. You change it one person at a time. Not one poor person at a time, but one human being made in the image and likeness of God who has intrinsic dignity and who for some reason or other lives entrenched in poverty and cannot get out. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other— in the spirit of Christ, which is love.