What That Homeless Man Needs Is What I Need

What That Homeless Man Needs Is What I Need

The first homeless man I truly met was Tony.

It was cold and we were all bundled up, but I made a concentrated effort to not mention the coldness.  I had only been outside for a few moments and this man had no home to seek refuge in against the frigid weather.  My perspective of the cold was altered in the presence of a man who stood before me after successive days on the streets.

Tony was tall and kind.  In situations where he easily could have been bitter, he chose to not be.  I was with a group of pro-life university students and he never once made me feel privileged or self-indulged.  One Saturday, a student bought Tony a coffee and I watched him graciously accept it, even as his cold hands shakily caused the coffee to spill on his fingers.  My face was etched with the concern and sadness I felt as I watched the scene unfold, but Tony sought to comfort me in this situation.  He told me to not be sad because even in his difficult situation he was still happy.  That momentary exchange made such a significant impression on me.

In a couple of hours, I would return to my dorm room after a filling breakfast and Tony didn’t attempt to guilt me for the luxuries I had in life.  Rather, he came to the cold streets of Pittsburgh to spend time with us.  He accepted money or coffees when offered, but he said he didn’t like to look homeless.  We wouldn’t see him pushing a cart around or laden down with luggage.  Dressed in the warm clothes appropriate for the cold, he didn’t want to accept extra things that he would have to carry with him during the day.

Tony was the first human face I saw of homeless in a personal way.  I heard him talk about how fearful he had been early one morning when the intense cold made it difficult for him to get out of the chair in an abandoned house that he had accidentally fallen asleep in.  The reality of not being able to move for a couple of hours shook him as he faced the reality that he might die alone in the cold someday.  Yet he was also very happy and enjoyed being around a bunch of young college students.  He wasn’t near us because we always gave him things or because we were popular in the area.  Tony enjoyed being with us and some of the students became his friends. Continue reading “What That Homeless Man Needs Is What I Need”

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On being alone when it’s disconcerting

The hardest part of college for me was always the going back to it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like school, I loved school.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, I did and they were amazingly wonderful people.  It wasn’t that I had bad roommates, really awful food, or difficult situations with which to deal.  The reason it was hard to start a new school year was the feeling I felt at the beginning of the new semester.  It would be exciting, but I had this fear that I would be forgotten.  With new classes, I didn’t know when my friends would be going to lunch or supper and I would have to establish a new routine for myself.  The fears weren’t particularly overwhelming, but they were real.  My heart would feel like it was caged in a bit the first few days of school.  Contrary to my natural introverted temperament, the first days of the semester I didn’t want to be alone.  Being alone made me a bit anxious and nervous.

The fear always faded quickly.  Within the week, I would study alone in my room and be completely fine with it.  I would call up a friend and we would go get lunch.  It was all fine.  As the years of college passed, the fear was less and less prevalent, although always subtly present.

I felt that little fear again when I moved into my first new home post-college.  My parents and sister helped me move the stuff into the house and then they drove home.  None of my housemates were home and for a little while, I began to question why I moved.  I felt isolated and alone.  That fear of being alone that is strangely so frightening to a natural introvert was again present.

I would like to say that since that point I’ve never again felt this disconcerting anxiety.  That, of course, would not be true.  It was the inspiration for this post.  At times I am able to feel overlooked when I come home and can’t find someone to talk to, when everyone I seem to know has plans each night of the week, or when I see other people’s lives moving forward while I think mine is standing still.  There is just enough truth in each of these events to make my little mind wonder if I’m not being forgotten or overlooked.  It is then that the anxious feeling returns and I don’t want to be alone.
So this time, when it happened, I laid on my bed and I asked the Lord what was going on in my heart.  I asked Him to tell me the truth because my heart is getting tangled in half-truths and full-lies whispered by the evil one.  The anxiety I feel at times, isn’t desired by God.  He desires peace for me.  He desires not a spirit of comparison, but a spirit that is directed toward His unique love for me.

The fears that plague our heart are not foolish, but they are not necessary.  God desires to hear about these troubles and aid us in our response toward them.  Through that conversation, our fears and anxiety will necessarily subside and peace will reign.

“Dear young people, like the first disciples, follow Jesus!  Do not be afraid to draw near to Him, to cross the threshold of His dwelling, to speak to Him face to face, as you talk with a friend.”     -St. John Paul II 

Gratitude for Community

At different times I find myself missing college.  While it was stressful and filled with numerous papers, I miss the unique setting that is found in living in the dorm and sharing my daily life with many others.  The fact that a perpetual adoration chapel was only a short walk away was also a major benefit.  Sometimes I was overwhelmed by the constant stream of people around campus, prohibiting any chance of being alone and filling my melancholic soul with stillness and silence.  Despite that, I found it invigorating to be surrounded by young people my age who desired to zealously live out the faith.  Of course they failed, but it was to my never-ending joy to be able to enter into deep theological discussions at the drop of the hat.

Once experiences the beauty of such an environment, everything else seems to not compare.  Now I don’t live in a place that is teeming with young Catholics.  I have a real job and I have to concern myself with money.  The goal now, as opposed to the liberal spending of college, is to earn more than I spend.  College was a steady stream of cash poured from my pockets and from the pockets of a couple banks.

Yet every now and then I am able to recognize the beauty of the present moment.  I remember that I live with three young women that are on fire for the Lord.  That we do engage in deep conversations, that we are sharing our lives together, and that we can challenge each other to delve deeper into our faith.  Last night we had a women’s prayer group meeting at my house and I was filled again with a sense of gratitude.  Women from different jobs, places, backgrounds, and lives came together to be rooted in prayer.  At one point I was concerned that our conversation would be offensive to some of the new ladies but I was even more encouraged to find out they weren’t.  We could talk about praying outside Planned Parenthood, contraception, ObamaCare, medical ethics, Catholic hospitals, and much more without any tension or conflict.  We seemed to be in one accord.

I thanked the Lord that I didn’t live on my own but with women I can grow with.  I am not alone in my faith or without Catholic friends, but rather the Lord is increasing and strengthening these friendships.  My community may be small, but it is sufficient for me.  The Lord provides.  He knows what I need and He is supplying.  Perhaps not in the abundance that I dream of or desire, but in the amount that is perfect, necessary, and manageable.  

I Desire a Heavenly Mindset

Last night, with the adventures of homecoming safely a week behind me, I found myself reminiscing about my own high school homecoming week.  It was quite easy to slip into romanticizing that time in my life because there is no risk that I will be caused to repeat it again.  My memories centered on the competition of the week, the class rivalries that emerged in full force, the class skits performed in which each teacher was fair game, and the exhilaration that filled the entire school for one precious week.  Throughout the week we would have games each day and the competition was fierce.  Seniors almost always won but it was the goal of each grade to produce an upset, one in which only obnoxious cheating would result in the triumph of the seniors.  My junior year was probably the most competitive.  The skits were hilarious and all of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) teachers were impersonated and analyzed.  (Note: As a teacher now, this is always a fear of mine when the students are given the chance to make fun of the teachers.  I sit in the gym, waiting anxiously, hoping that I wasn’t memorable enough or disliked enough to become the focus of students’ laughter.)  My junior year we won the “Olympics” and the triumph was palpable.  We gathered in our class sections in the gym bleachers and would chant our anthems. “J-U-N I-O-R…Junior, Junior, Junior!!!”  “0-8 0-8 0008”  The shouting echoed off the walls of the gym.  That memory is one of my favorites–the class anthems, the school spirit, the energy, the competition. 

I can almost trick myself into believing that that experience was high school.  It was not.  High school wasn’t traumatizing for me, but it wasn’t the best experience of my life.  I liked school and I was involved in numerous activities: choir, band, volleyball, track statistician, plays, oral interp, and TATU to name some.  It was a great time of development…but it wasn’t perfect.

That is one of my problems.  I am excellent at romanticizing the past and thinking of it in the best ways.  This doesn’t hold true for everything but for many things it does.  I think back (way back!) to college and I am able to make it free from any trials or difficulties.  I think, “Trish, do you remember that time that your job was to read theology books and write papers?  When you hung out with friends several times each week?  When you felt like you were changing the world by being in the pro-life movement?  Remember when you went to New Mexico and twice to Honduras for mission trips?  Remember traveling around Europe?  Wasn’t that the absolute best time of your life?”  And looking at all of those adventures and blessings, I am convinced that I should be there and not here.  What is very easy to overlook is the fatigue, the stress of completing two theses in one semester (even if that was my fault entirely), trying to finish the endless stream of homework, wanting to hang out with friends but not being able to, worrying that we wouldn’t fundraise enough for the mission trips, the excessive tiredness.  All of that is easy to forget in the quest to make college “the best years of my life.” 

The point is this: the past is easy to love because we don’t face its challenges in the present.  Of course there are difficulties in my present life but those are more keenly felt because they are the present.  In high school I was left with this feeling that nobody understood me.  The friendships I had weren’t rooted in Christ and therefore often seemed shallow.  In college I had the blessing of making those friendships and seeing how quickly they blossomed simply because we were rooted in the same soil.  Now I am able to see the beauty of those friendships even though I don’t find myself immediately surrounded by them anymore.  Instead I see from afar those friends continue to grow and impact the world.  They are getting married, they are having babies, they are continuing on with their lives.  As for myself, I am growing and changing, even if at a slower pace than I would like.  The past was necessary to make me who I am today, but now I need to live in today.  I need to live in today with all of its trials and difficulties–with the sophomores that won’t listen to me, with the seniors that are quick to roll their eyes at my statements, with the other teachers that don’t quite know how to take me, with the desire to live out my vocation yet being caught in a seemingly indefinite waiting place. 

Perhaps instead of gazing jealously at the past, I should look with anticipation to the future.  Imagine Heaven.  All of the beautiful people I know, all of the gorgeous places I’ve seen, and all of the lovely experiences I’ve been blessed with, all rolled into one and magnified greatly–this is Heaven.  When I focus on that goal, the end prize, the eternal life with God in Heaven, then the pains and irritations of today seem to pale in significance. 

“The Glory of the Lord, therefore, is the super eminently luminous beauty of divinity beyond all experience and all descriptions, all categories, a beauty before which all earthly splendors, marvelous as they are, pale into insignificance.”  The Evidential Power of Beauty