July 3, 2020

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

See Jesus in others through acts of humility, kindness

Patti LambIt’s funny which childhood memories stick and become engrained in our brains. I have some distinct memories of my uncle when I was growing up.

Uncle Gerry, a handsome bachelor and one of my mom’s younger brothers, became paralyzed on the left side of his body as the result of an aneurism soon after he turned 40. He entered a nursing home and began using a wheelchair at a young age.

My parents drove across town regularly to visit my uncle, always bearing homemade treats and other goodies. They talked at length with him about sports, recent events and gave family updates. This was all before computers and cell phones.

What I remember even more distinctly is that, in order for him to enjoy the company of family, my mom and dad brought Uncle Gerry to our house on holidays and special occasions for stretches of a week or so. It was no small feat, as he slept in the dining room—which our mother transformed into a comfortable and accommodating guest room—on the second floor of our house. It took several men to help him navigate the stairs with his good leg.

Mom cooked like never before, and I marveled at her culinary masterpieces. She would prepare special food that typically didn’t have its place on our regular family menu. As a small child, I remember staring at the supper table at my uncle’s spot before he would roll up his wheelchair and being impressed, wondering why my parents went to such great lengths.

“Dorothy, thank you for another delicious meal,” he would say. My brothers and sisters and I remember this well. He gratefully spoke from his heart.

Facilitating the use of the bathroom for my uncle was not an easy task, and my parents signed up for some unglamorous duties as a result. I remember looking at my mom one day after she helped my uncle, and I inquired about how she did difficult things without complaining.

I’ll never forget her response.

“I’m doing it for God,” she said.

I wasn’t quite 10 years old. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but she went on to explain that when we are called to do the monotonous, thankless, and even difficult works of service, we must shift our mindsets. When we frame it that we’re doing it for God, that’s a game changer, she said. She told me that we’ve got to look to the divine—to the presence of God—in others. Then service can even become joyful.

My goal is to better adopt this mindset during uncomfortable service opportunities, such as:

  • Cleaning up after my child’s bout with a ferocious intestinal bug at 2 a.m.
  • Delivering appliances to a family on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul on a sweltering summer day.
  • Changing our plans to visit the community pool as a family, and instead using our time to help our elderly neighbors with yardwork when we see them struggling.

Scripture reminds us: “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Mt 25:40).

While this may not be particularly comforting in our earthly moments, Jesus promised unfathomable eternal rewards when we act with humility and kindness, acknowledging his presence in others.

I’m beginning to understand that it starts by loving and serving family and those closest to us, then extending our circles.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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