For the longest time, I didn’t realize that the greatest gift I can give a person is myself.
During my time as a Christ in the City missionary, I found myself falling into this trap: I wanted to “do” something more for the people I encountered. Every day, I would meet homeless people who had nothing. While we had snacks and waters to give them, nine times out of ten the people I talked to didn’t care for those things. All they wanted was for someone to notice them and listen to them — for someone to see them for who they truly were — for someone to look past the sometimes-ragged appearances, the bad things they might have done, the embarrassment of being homeless, and to see them as another human.
I experienced this clearly when I got to know a fiery, little old lady named Melony.
My street team would visit her every Friday afternoon. She didn’t like Catholicism and had different views from us, but that never got in the way of our friendship. We loved spending time with her, and vice versa.
One day, we arrived for our visit to find that she wasn’t there, which was out of character for her. After a lot of worried phone calls and prayers, we discovered she was taken to the ER because of her bad lungs. We visited her in the hospital, which was one of the most difficult things I’ve seen. She was unconscious and hooked up to all these tubes.
I felt helpless.
She seemed to get better over a week, but later, she was placed on hospice. We knew this meant we didn’t have very much time left with our dear friend, so we tried to see her every day after that. One day, she was doing very poorly. Holding her hand, we shared stories with her and tried to show her how loved she was. I thought I felt helpless before, but this was a whole new experience.
I couldn’t give her anything; I couldn’t ease her pain; I couldn’t stop her from dying. I felt worthless. I wanted and needed to do something more. However, Melony didn’t want or need any material thing from us. I had to trust that it was enough for us to simply be with her in her last moments.
One of our formators told us something during this time that I will never forget:
“How beautiful would it be that, when it comes time for Melony to face her Maker, that she recognizes His love because you were that face of love to her.”
This changed my life forever. I felt so many things during this time: confusion, anger, helplessness, guilt. Yet I also felt trust, peace and humility. How could I, a weak sinner, ever help someone get to heaven? How could I have such an impact on someone’s life by simply being with them?
I didn’t give Melony anything. I didn’t get her baptized, I didn’t tell her about God…but I loved her. And that was enough.
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” ― Mother Teresa
When I put myself aside and let Christ love through me, that’s when I make an impact. That’s what changes lives. Through a simple, selfless encounter with another, I can trust that God will take care of everything.
Jesus, help me to make a better gift of myself. Allow me to continue to see others through Your eyes of mercy and love. I trust that, when I humble myself, You will work through me. I trust that the best thing I can do for another is to lead them closer to You. I trust that, through one small encounter, You can work wonders and change lives. Lord, make me an instrument of Your love. Amen.
To learn more about Christ in the City and how to volunteer, visit www.christinthecity.org.