My friend Kit Kleck is rather an inspired mom, if you ask me. She’s a common sense organizer type. It would be a piece of cake to give you multiple examples of her simple genius, but my favorite today is this quarterly service project she has coordinated for the junior high kids at St. Louis de Montfort for the past couple of years. There has been bell ringing for the Salvation Army, feeding the homeless downtown, collection of clothing, etc.
Her inspiration for this ongoing project is the Corporal Works of Mercy:
•To feed the hungry;
•To give drink to the thirsty;
•To clothe the naked;
•To harbor the harborless;
•To visit the sick;
•To ransom the captive;
•To bury the dead.
The idea here is that the children (and their families too) will have the opportunity to practically experience going outside oneself in service of another. Mercy used in this context is said by St. Thomas Aquinas to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s suffering.
Kit put me in charge of the 3rd quarter project, and with the help of my good friend, Julia Mattei, I elected to use my moment in charge to organize a trip to St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged, on 86th St. in Indianapolis, which is operated by the amazing Little Sisters of the Poor. It’s Lent, I reasoned, and one way to give alms is to share our time.
The uncomplicated opportunity was playing BINGO, talking to, and serving treats to the nursing home residents – and if you’ve ever done it you know it is just a darn good way to spend an afternoon.
Here’s a little peak at our experience with the SLDM 7th graders and about 40 St. Augustine’s residents this past weekend.
My new best friend, who would prefer that I call him “Vincenzo Giuseppi”, told me as I suggested he might want to cover “B 6” (if he has any chance to beat Adele at the next table over), “You are outgoing and fun. This is the best time I’ve had in a long while!”
As we began, the kids were timid and quiet. They had obviously not spent much time in a room full of seniors. The residents weren’t so sure about us and our squirrely crew either! However, it didn’t take long before I started hearing kids saying things like “Yes, I agree, chocolate chip cookies are definitely the best” or “You have 3 brothers? Me too!”
The charming activities director with the Peruvian accent was brilliantly accommodating. She allowed the kids to assist the residents, call out winning numbers, and run the numbers board………generally just take over the day’s event.
I brought along my 2nd grader who plopped himself down between two charming Bingo- loving old gals who paid so much attention to his every silly word that he said (beaming) “I was like a celebrity Mom. They loved me!!”
As we were leaving, “Vincenzo” insisted we wait until he made a quick trip to his room. When he returned, he handed me two puzzles. They must be 1000 piece puzzles, put together and glued in place. Obviously, these were treasures. The larger of the two was a Christmas puzzle. He whispered to me it was a personal favorite because it’s of Rockefeller Center in NY, and although he likes to joke that he is old Italian mafia, the truth is that his last name is Bennett, and he is from NY.
A Christmas picture, huh? How appropriate, I can’t help thinking. Vincenzo? You and your friends brought Jesus to life for us on Saturday.
That’s how it always goes, doesn’t it? You do something “to be nice” and what happens is that you end up being the one to whom the gift was given. I know this. Sometimes, I just forget. In this case, the gift is mine applies literally and figuratively.
When we try to be the face of Jesus, we can be certain then that we will find Him and our gift inevitably is joy.
“…Amen, I say to you, what you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40)