Tag Archives: charity

Be Reciprocal Givers and Receivers

I totally understand how easy it is to be the giver rather than the receiver.  When you are the receiver, there are questions that arise like, “What’s the intent of this gift?”  “How do I repay this gift?”  “How am I worthy of this gift?”  Those are probably only some questions that pop up.

Often, receivers are unwilling, right?  “No, don’t get me anything for my birthday, just come hang out.”  Or, “Oh, you really didn’t have to give this to me!  Please (as the receiver hands back the gift), this is too much!”  We in the United States, as far as I know, are so reluctant to be a receiver.  Most of us would rather give.

Would you ponder this with me, and admit that part of the pleasure of giving is that the giver is in control, and therefore it’s hard to surrender to become a receiver?

This aspect of generosity is something that Jean Vanier has advocated against, along with other famous people who dedicate their life to charity, such as St. Vincent de Paul, and Mother Teresa.  They advocated that the givers need to become the receivers, otherwise the givers hold a control over those whom they give to, and their Christian charity becomes tainted with a type of domination.

I notice this type of domination all the time in my field of care giving.  I am the one who has so much “control” in a situation when helping my clients with disabilities.  I am in control how food will taste if I cook it, and I am in control of how clean a place will look after I leave.  I am in control of what activities I make time for, and I am also in control of the way an activity is done.

I was working for a few days with an older couple.  Let’s call them Larry and Susan.  Larry was the main client who needed the most assistance, but since Susan also needed some assistance as well, I was expected to help both of them.  Larry and Susan had issues with balance and movement of all their joints.  They were unable to do simple things such as tie their shoes.  They were both at risk of falling down at any time, so the caregiver would have to watch their movements closely.

I was told that they needed to do a shower at least 3 times a week.  Larry was much more accepting of assistance than Susan was.  When it came time for showers, Larry was ok to be the first one, and would obey my simple commands like, “Ok, let’s stand on the count of 3.”  Susan, on the other hand, was not so keen on the shower.  I let her postpone the shower day, but when it came to the time itself, she was still not happy about the thought.  I paused, and I waited for her to explain why she wasn’t interested in the shower.  “I just don’t know what I’m doing.”

And there it was.  Fear showed its ugly face.  She was as unfamiliar with the shower routine as I was since I just began working in her home a day before this situation.  Susan didn’t want to be a receiver of my offer for a warm and relaxing shower.  She’d rather skip it and stay away from risk.  She was not being a giver: I needed her trust, and it was not being given to me.

After some gentle persuasion, and upbeat promises like, “I promise it will be warm, and it will be quick,” she began to walk over to the shower.  But even when she got into the bathroom, she started whimpering, like a scared child; the shower was no longer a comforting activity for her in her old age.  “I’m going to fall!”  She made more distressed noises, and I respected her with silence.  I moved slowly and I talked to her with an upbeat and reassuring voice in hopes of being able to complete the shower routine.

holdinghands elder youngerSusan ultimately gave me her trust.  She was the giver as much as I was.  Susan allowed herself to be vulnerable and surrender one of her most precious gifts: her trust.

I let that situation stay with me as a powerful lesson of surrender.  There’s too many times I have not wanted to surrender: listening to positive critique, giving trust to a stranger asking for money, forgiving a driver who doesn’t let me switch lanes.  I, like so many people, want to demand justice and be in total control of the situation, or at least fight for control.  Here on the opposite end was Susan, giving up control and security to a stranger who promised to honor her gift of trust.  It seemed that the best way to accept the gift was to not think little of it, but instead receive it with astonishment and gentleness.  As much as I was going to give her the best quality of care, I also had to become a mindful receiver of this woman’s vulnerability.

If I can find those times of silence and reflection, I can unpack these delicate and fleeting moments that I encounter with people that I care for.  This Lenten season, let’s practice reciprocal giving, and reciprocal surrender.


George, my friend, Rest in Peace

easter Here’s the Eulogy I did for my friend.  I was blessed to serve him and learn from him.

George was born on June 12, 1922, and was the 10th child of eleven kids.  He was 91 when he died.  He leaves 12 direct nephews and nieces, and 66 second nephews and nieces.  He and Bernice were married 47 years.  This is no surprise because, after all, it was love at first sight for both of them.  She was a nurse when he met her, and he decided to kiss her after only chatting with her for a couple of hours.  Two months later he married her.

He was born in California, and it sounds like many of the nieces and nephews have fond memories of visiting George at his place in Malibu.  Everyone knew George as someone who loved making and giving away trinkets.  He never did stop doing this, since so many children who attend St. Norbert’s school were blessed to get 2 trinkets or 20 of them throughout the year.bday4

George was definitely famous in his own right.  Bernice told me he appeared frequently on PBS with the Boy Scouts, showcasing interesting craft projects.  George taught a few classes at Orange Coast Community College.  He and Bernice were even a part of the founding board of directors for Cal State LA.

It was commonly thought that George was going to become a priest.  He was always very religious and was known to many as our “local John the Baptist.”  He used to go to Mass every day, and there was one time recently when he walked to church from his home only using his walker.  He had his first scooter stolen, but this did not deter him from accomplishing what he set out to do.

George never wanted to shy away from conversations that dealt with politics or religion.  He always promoted Christian Unity, and encouraged people to go to other Christian churches not for the sake of converting others to be Catholic, but to show others that we support them and love them.   In fact, he claims to have helped put up the Missionary Cross in this church, which is found opposite side of the altar, over the baptismal font.  He reminded priests and parishoners alike that it was at the moment of our baptism that we were also being called to be Missionaries for Christ.  George was also inter-religious and I finally went to visit and pray at a local mosque during Ramadan with him.  He never wanted to stop hosting these “missionary events,” and I thank St. Norbert’s bulletin editor Jo-an as well as Fr. Pat for allowing George to keep placing announcements in the bulletin, regardless if any one showed up.georgescooter2

George was always very generous.  He and Bernice actually gave away an RV to a homeless family one time, and had let some people live with them whether it was a single mother and her children, or a homeless man who needed some shelter during the winter.

Bernice always said, “well, if you ever need a place to stay, we have a spare room, and I think George could use some male companionship.”  Bernice mentioned this almost every time I visited, and I silently pondered the thought.  Little did I know that  five years later, I would actually live with George.

I only lived with him for a short time, from February until the end of June of this year.  Within that time I learned so much more about caring for another person.

I learned that it was more important to have George live as long as he could in his own home, and stick to his old ways, than to place him elsewhere or be upset at him for his bad habits.  I learned that George required me to love him in that unconditional, inconvenient way.  It was inconvenient to take George to Mass because I had to give extra time, or show up late to Mass.  It was inconvenient to do shopping with George.  I couldn’t just go and grab the items he need.  Quite often he wanted to do it.  And also grab a couple of other items not on the shopping list.

I started to realize that real love is often inconvenient.  Accepting the inconvenience helped me die to my Self.  Will I have enough patience?  Will I give him my attention or time only when I feel like it?  In the end, to be someone’s companion meant that I needed to be there as much as I could, until I reached a point of some uncomfortability.  Then I was loving George.

Thanks, George, for all the things you’ve done for us.  Thank you for being a missionary for the rest of us.  Pray for us that we will take your place and seek to be better Christians, thoughtful of children, and determined to make a better society, even if it’s inconvenient.donuts

Even Soldiers Need Support

logo-ffpMemorial weekend 2013 I thought of my family members who have signed up to be part of the military.  I prayed for them and knew that their lives were drastically different than mine.

There is so much change in the life of a soldier like changing residences, training new soldiers, being supervised by several different individuals within a short time, and even more.

In particular there’s one area they all struggle with just like anyone else and that’s growth in the faith.  Keeping the faith active and challenging among all the many tasks required during the day is just plain hard.

So the need for something to engage faith, for someone to encourage and support faith is a need that is even harder to fulfill in the military.  One organization is trying to change that, and make it easier for faith resources to get into the hands of those who want them.

Frontline Faith Project has a great mission and vision.  In an environment where it is not easy to come by faith resources, Frontline Faith Project definitely is trying to seep into the busy lives of our soldiers, who are spiritually hungry just like the rest of us.in-memoriumI use my blog to promote great organizations and resources.  Please consider looking at this organization and passing on the word of its existence.

Frontline Faith Project – Spiritual food for a warrior’s soul.

Reflections from Red Rock Country: Volunteering is Changing the World, One Person At A Time

(Photo Credit: G Marquez Jr.)

I was in Sedona, Arizona for a few days.  I was blessed with the opportunity to pray, to read, to reflect.  I will do a few posts from those days, and title them, “Reflections from Red Rock Country” series.

I was on a retreat and vacation, and therefore decided to treat myself to an event that has hardly ever happened to me: to enjoy a coffee and a newspaper at a local cafe.

(Photo Credit: G Marquez Jr.)

The coffee was delicious (a 12 oz french press brew of “House Blend” from locally roasted beans), and the weather was fantastic.  But what really fed my soul was reading two incredible stories.

One story was about a couple from the Phoenix area who decided to be volunteer as foster parents.  The woman had been through the foster care system herself and so knew what it meant to have an environment that felt like a good temporary home and be emotionally supported through what seems like a vastly uncertain future.

You’ll find the link to the family’s story at the end of this post.  The story is short, but so very deep.  It touched me at the core of my being because it showed that God does do miracles…but often needs our help in completing the task.  The woman admitted that she and her husband were not thinking of being “in it for the long run.”  They wanted to provide a home for children until the foster care system could reunite the parents with the children.  They only thought of themselves as a “haven” for potential children who needed a safe place while the original parent(s) got their act together.

In the case of the Parks, they ended up with the opportunity to adopt.  And they whole-heartedly accepted.  Read the article to see how little by little the Parks moved from “transitional home” to “permanent home” for two very promising teens.  What was the downer in the article was the statistic that there are not enough volunteers to run helpful programs of the foster care system in Arizona.  Again, God can’t make us do good things.  We have to be willing and ready to give of our time when it’s called for.

The other article that wacked me in the face as a wake up call was about five high school teens who were not only doing well in school, and involved in extracurricular activities, but were also faithful volunteers.  One story that was engraved in my thoughts for awhile was the one about Trey Gass.  He’s a star football player, and also has a love for promoting the good work of “Streetlight,” a project to end child prostitution in the USA.  He met some of the girls who had escaped their prostitution, and some were 14 years old.  The same age of his sister.  Trey has been fundraising and speaking about the good work of the organization since then.  He has so much on his plate, and yet gives so much dedication to this worthy cause.  His story and others are at the bottom of this post or click here.

So what do I do?  With the time that I have, the talent I am given….what does it go towards?  I hope that question can inspire any of us to say “Yes, Jesus, I am listening,” and then start giving our time, talent, and funds to something bigger than our selves.  Volunteering changes the world, one person at a time.

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