It’s not lost on me that I started out my seminary semester last year driving to Louisiana to help with flood victims a state over (I wrote about that here: http://colbyjackson.me/baton-rouge-mission/). A year later I’m doing the exact same thing in my own backyard.
One of the most moving experiences of last year was the generosity of the people we served. In particular, the grandmother who refused to let us leave without a gift. Laura and I both left with blankets handmade by Granny. Her house still had water in it, but she sent us away with her work of her own hand. I still use the blanket daily and it reminds me to pray for the people who were, and still are, affected by the tragedy.
So, yesterday I had the most surreal, grace-filled experience. Laura texted me earlier in the morning and mentioned that she was going to give the blanket away to help these new flood victims in Houston – “I’m about to give away our flood blanket from the little old lady… I wonder where it will end up… I hope someone else appreciates it.”
So it’s 4am, I’m working at the evacuee shelter, and I see a guy walk in front of my food table with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. “Not possible!” I’m thinking to myself, while I run to chase him down.
I ask and he tells me that he arrived at the shelter late at night and they gave him that blanket. “I know lots of other people didn’t get one, so I’m glad this is super warm.” On closer inspection, I confirmed that it was the exact blanket that Laura gave away earlier in the day. So we talked for a while, I told him the story, and he was overwhelmed and incredibly gracious. These things don’t just happen. Moments of grace are meant to be shared, to rejoice, inspire and teach.
This is Jim. Jim’s house is flooded and he was evacuated with no belongings. He arrived at the convention center with nothing and is going to spend an unforeseen amount of time in a building with strangers and nothing to do. He (and many others like him) is going to need a lot of support from a lot of people in the upcoming days, weeks, and months.
But, Jim is receiving that support. Jim slept warm last night because one year ago a heart burning with charity and inspired by Dorothy Day’s radical love of neighbor invited me along to drive to another state and help flood victims. He slept warm because those flood victims overflowed with gratitude and gave away a small token of appreciation. He slept warm because one year later that same heart, still burning with charity, gave away a precious gift to help people that needed it more, and because other people were there to receive the gift, sort it, and give it away. From one flood victim to another. Grace upon grace.
When the Church talks about habituated virtue and living a life of conversion, this is exactly what she is talking about. Charity abounds in a grateful heart. You actions – big and small – affect others. The body of Christ is made manifest in human interactions.
Christ’s offering is meant to bring us back together in communion. Thus, holiness is not for you alone. It has an end – lived and rippling out in communities near and far. No man is an island. Praise God for the saints in our midst that continue to inspire me to holiness and greater love for my (literal) neighbor.