A hurricane Christmas message

I want to take a moment in my very hectic life to send you a very special thank you during this Christmas season. The Hurricane literally turned my life upside down.
A little over a month ago I felt like George Baily in the movie
"it's a wonderful life"
 as he sat desperately sitting at the bar getting drunk telling God he was at the end of his rope.
There were many other issues that were going on in my life prior to the storm that was pushing my stress levels through the roof and I felt I was having difficulty keeping it together. However when my house was destroyed I simply did not think I could handle any more stress and yet here I am to write this email to you.
As a matter of fact, that is exactly why I am writing to you. You see, here it is only a month after hurricane Sandy and I still feel like George Baily, but somehow I no longer feel like that desperate George Baily at the end of his rope. Instead I feel like the George Baily at the end of the movie when the whole town rallied around him and instead was called the
"richest man in town".
 One of the reasons I can honestly feel that way is because of you, yes, that's right, YOU!
You may or may not know what an impact you have made on me but let me assure you, this whole event has simply changed my life, and although I wouldn't wish what I am going through on anybody, I wouldn't choose to wish it away for myself even if I could.
You see I don't believe that anything is a co incidence including what we believe is tragedy.
What may seem like a tragedy to us may in fact be a blessing. We have a tendency to say something is good or bad because it makes us happy or sad, makes us feel good or bad but I have learned that often our greatest teachers in life are adversity, suffering, trials, and disappointments. I have thought back in life to moments that I thought I would die if I didn't get something I really wanted more than anything in the world only to reflect on that situation now and realize it really isn't significant or even not good for me in the long run.
So many people have said in the aftermath of the storm, how could God allow this to happen, yet I have heard many incredible stories of lives transformed by the storm. The point is, this wasn't the first tragedy in my life nor will it be the last but if we are open to change then perhaps, just perhaps God takes it and turns it into something good.
When the homeless heard I was homeless as well, so many of them that hesitated to trust me or accept me, came up to me after I said grace over the meal and hugged me, even invited me to stay with them!  They seemed excited about showing me how to get by!

 I do not pretend to know the mind of God nor do I wish to try, but one thing I do know. When I felt alone you were there, when I was overwhelmed and afraid, you were there, when I needed a hand or someone to talk to you were there, when I was hungry you fed me, and when I needed an emotional hug it was you that was there. I even felt the prayers of those who could not be with me!
..... I don't want to get all preachy and theological on you but the truth is
.... you were Christ for me.
 Religion has nothing to do with this!
When we do these things for one another we in fact release a side of God that always exists in every human being even if we don't believe in Him.
That is His incredible goodness.
 It is said that God is love and when we act in love we simply act more like God, so thank you for choosing to act in this way for me.
 It has rekindled a very tried faith and helped me to more fully believe in Him again!
I was told by more than one person during this crisis that they were thankful that I allowed them to help me.
I was blown away by this and quite honestly didn't understand what they meant.
 I was told that I always helped everyone else and that although they wanted to help me in some way, the opportunity never happened. I am so grateful that the opportunity to help me became available because I really needed your help, emotionally, physically, and yes even spiritually!
This became an incredible experience.
 I think that allowing someone to help you is in fact an act of charity on your part even if you don't need it,
but a necessity if you do.
This tragedy in a sense has been kind of a funeral, you know how at the funeral everyone gathers around but then the real pain happens months after, when everyone Else's life goes on as usual but you must still deal with the grief.?
 I am counting on you to be there as I work through this thing, maybe not so much physically involved but I know there will be those days to come when it seems rough again and life is throwing another curve ball and I need some moral support.
So I want to thank you for being there for me in the past but more so for the future that lies ahead. I have found in all my work with people that it is in sharing their tears even more than their laughter that we experience the true meaning of life together.
That is where we find our passion.
So maybe during this Christmas season as you perhaps glance at the baby Christ child laying there in a straw manger that He in fact lives within you even if you don't believe it,
because I have seen Him there with my own eyes.


A pair of socks

"Thank-you Thank-you God bless you"
was the greeting I received from George.  A gentle man, a traveled man,. and a very educated man. He came from the other side of the sea, with 6 years of very specialized training yet not a job in sight. He said materialism is what causes such sadness in America. When expectations are high, disappointments also run high. He filled me with a sense of peace, he seemed to have a wisdom beyond this world. He was poor in the eyes of the world,... yet so very rich!

I am amazed at the charity of the volunteers. Dr's, lawyers, homemakers, builders. We come from such diverse backgrounds yet there is so much giving. One of the most interesting phenomena is how some that do not profess a faith necessarily seem to be the most Christ like!
I was taken back when last week  there were a few of us cleaning up and about to leave, when a homeless latino came in drunk asking for something. Almost everything was gone and locked and after a few attempts to understand the man, we decided that he wanted a pair of socks because his bare feet were blistering and bleeding in his worn and mis sized sneaker. One of the men who I never expected started taking his shoe off to give him his socks; at first I thought he was joking but then realized that he was serious! Christ sometimes comes to us in the most unexpected ways through people we see as simply "ordinary" This man has no real desire for religion but from where I stand at least for this moment I am given a new meaning of Church.
We are all there for different reasons, but there seems to be something that gives back so to speak, seems to fulfill an emptiness. It seems that the old bible verse is really true, 
"It is in giving that we receive"!


The Philosopher:

He is  kind of a troubadour, he wanders place to place never quite knowing where the next day will led him. He is a people watcher, a life observer you might say.

 Today we were talking about why people do the things they do. 
He insisted that there was ultimately a self serving reason why all people did everything.
 I countered by asking him if it were possible to do something simply for the sake of love.

He chose to tell me this cute little story that appears to win his argument.

" There once was a judge who had a pig, the judge loved his pig and took it everywhere with him. Each morning all the people of the town would go over to the judge and greet him good morning because he was a very important man. One day the judge's pig died and there was a funeral for the pig. That day everyone in town attended. Not more than a week later the judge himself died but there were none to bid him farewell.

I said none? There was not one person at his funneral?
 He said maybe his father or mother, or a few from his immediate family.

I asked why so few came? 
He said because all they wanted was what they could get from him.

Was he a good man? " 
No, not really was the answer"

" Then why did anyone show up at all " I asked   
He responded " I guess they were obligated"

Perhaps, ....
... or perhaps they simply came because despite all his faults they chose to love him anyway.


Today a Spanish man had a seizure
I called the medics.
A hundred pair of eyes watched as the man convulsed.
There was nothing to do but watch.

Some of his companions tried to open his closed spastic fingers
while another held him down.
9 medics showed up
and carried him away.

I talked to his friends with my very poor broken Spanish
and with a little help from my friends.
I asked them if they understood what happened to him.
It's the alcohol, they said, he gets this when he drinks too much.

So I asked them this question,
If he stopped drinking would the seizures stop?
"Si" was the answer I received.

...It seems we all have sins in our closets,
some can hide them better than others.
The alcoholic and gluttons sins are obvious to all,
but then there are those sins that hide
deep within the recesses of our soul,
pride, injustice, deceit, dishonesty, lust

So I ask another question,
perhaps rhetorical
Do even the best hidden sins surface sooner or later?
and doesn't sin not only effect others but more importantly the one who sins even more?
" Si " 


Today Lauren told me how she could not go on since she lost her husband 1 year ago. Life has been hard but now it seemed unbearable. 

A hot meal, a pat on the back, and the usual " I'll pray for you" just would,nt be the right formula for this woman. In fact, there is no formula. Grief is a living death! It scorches the heart, bleeds the body, and isolates the mind...
...Once, there was a very old man who lost his wife, he refused to talk to anyone. Friends, neighbors, and family were shut out from the shriveling soul. One day a neighbor saw a little boy coming out of the old mans house and asked, " How did you get the old man to let you in?" The little boy answered " I cried with Him!"

Across the room I recognize a young man standing alone up against the wall. He stands, and he watches, but he does not move. There is neither smile nor frown upon his face, he is simply there.
 " You are Fr. Dan" I said. ""We have met before". 
"Yes, I remember" he said.

"How are you?",
 there was a moments hesitation. 
"I am taking some time off."

 He looked at me  without saying a word but you could read all the words spoken from the reflection seen within his eyes.

There are men who give their lives so others may not die, but sometimes  the reaper is too much for them. We belong to a family but if we their children do not let them rest, if we do not nourish and give back to replenish their strength their vows cannot sustain them. 
When I look into His eyes I see a reflection of myself,
 giving yet broken, 
healing yet wounded. 
Again, what can I say?. 

So I embrace Him hoping that the pain 
I carry for him can be enough, 
but it is never enough!
 Only when my pain, my blood mingles with the Savior 
can my wounds speak to his broken heart. 
He walks away, but I never 
 know if he is healed.
A man is reading a magazine, it requires a post graduate degree. He speaks of things beyond the minds of the upper middle class and yet he finds himself homeless, looking for answers no book can ever give. 

Why do these things continue to happen is the question he asks? 
It's been 40 years!

The dark and empty night cannot answer. 
He calls out for the maker to touch him, 
to put him to sleep in a warm and secure bed,
 but the journey never seems to end, 
there are only small glimmers of light along the way, 
but mostly darkness.

"I am a human being!" cry's his spirit,
but what does one have to do to make them see?
The yellows of yesterday only seem gray today and the poor as the carpenter has told us will always be with us.
So what is the point you might ask?,
 week after week , year after year, 
They continue to want, 
They are given clothes yet remain naked!
" We want more fish, we want more loaves" is their cry but they do not learn how to use the net

Perhaps all I really have, is my own brokenness to offer.
 Perhaps I suffer so that I can show them the 
nail prints in my own hands. 
Perhaps I am no more than one of them in disguise 
just trying to find my way home.