Winter is officially here! As we move closer to the celebration of the Birth of Our Lord, let us be mindful of those in our midst who are less fortunate than ourselves. Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus as a model for how we should treat each other, as if our brothers and sisters were Christ in disguise.
We are called to feed the hungry and with so many people going without food, consider donating food to a facility or making an extra casserole dish and bringing it to food pantry in your area. One can also make quick backpacks filled with nutritious food items that don’t require refrigeration and give them to the souls standing on a curbside with a sign asking for this basic necessity. Going outside of your local area to find a way to help end poverty, consider www.heifer.org
Giving drink to the thirsty. Many of us take water for granted–others are much less fortunate in not having clean running water at all, much less the faucets we have or access to the shrink wrapped bottles we buy in bulk. Consider keeping an extra case in your vehicle to hand out to Christ in disguise on the roadside. Perhaps you wish to donate to organizations that build wells for people? www.wateraidamerica.org
Sheltering the homeless. Christ himself was born in a manger, having no room at the inn for a more comfortable entry onto this Earth. Many families are homeless due to war, impossible living conditions or catastrophic events where parents are left without incomes and eventually become homeless. Consider donating your time, extra food and clothing to a shelter near you. Perhaps contributing your skills to help someone learn a new skill for eventual employment and one day turning the key to the door of their own homes? www.emmauscenter.net
Visit a prison. Many folks that have committed crimes are made in the image of Christ and often very much over-looked! Consider scheduling some time to talk to folks who are behind bars and giving witness to Christ-you never know what a difference you can make in their lives. Who knows, after their release from prison, it may have been your act of kindness and loving acceptance that prevents them from returning to a life of crime? The children of prisoners also need attention–consider becoming a mentor or organizing a drive for presents at Christmas? www.prisonfellowship.org
Bury the dead. Keep in prayerful mind those of us who have passed on and those who have been left behind. How can you help a friend or associate who has lost a loved one? Visit often. Talk once a week. Keep in touch through notes, flowers or simply offer to go out for coffee or lunch. Offer to start a Memorial Garden by planting the favorite flowers or trees of the departed.
Alms to the poor. When I was a child, my parents fed us rice and purple plums for dinner every Friday night. The money saved went to feed the poor and we were always reminded to be considerate of those with much less to eat. Though we got sick of purple plums, the message was driven home to our hearts and to this day, I keep a can of purple plums as a reminder to tighten our own belts so others may eat.
Give the gift of yourself this Christmas! Think of ways to give this precious gift of YOU to others. You are created in Christ, show His face of you to others. There are talents we all have been given by our Good Lord, so think of ways you can “become an icon” by being the Living Gospel. As Francis said “preach the Gospels at all times and if necessary, use words.” So be it.