It is easy to feel overwhelmed these days. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and are constantly adjusting to the challenges this new reality brings. We are witnessing a time of racial unrest, and are wondering what we can do to make a difference. We experience a wide variety of emotions, sometimes all at once – anger, frustration, confusion, grief, sadness, despair. We also experience from time to time positive emotions influenced by our faith – hope, acceptance, compassion, trust, belonging, love of neighbor. Every person responds differently to the circumstances we are in. One thing we all have in common as people of faith is the desire to make a difference.
How do we go about making a difference? There are no easy answers; it is a question that one lives into over time. Our goal to help people may indicate a deep desire to be of service. Often we associate helping others with a future goal. When my kids are older, I will have more time to devote to volunteer activities. When my work life is less hectic, I can connect more to the causes I care about. When I retire, I will be able to be more involved with church. We tend to be future oriented now because we want this pandemic to be over, and justice and fairness to replace the racial inequalities.
Making a difference and loving one’s neighbor can happen in the present moment. We are surrounded with opportunities every moment and every day to make a difference. Our growth in Christ allows us to recognize these moments and opportunities. We can practice openness to the possibilities that are before us. Every person we are in contact with presents a unique situation. The best way I can summarize this practice is: Be a Presence. Meet persons where they are, love them as God has loved you, and trust that God will give you the words to say when needed.
This is hard to do, and is only possible through the workings of the Holy Spirit. We were given this gift at baptism, and part of being a presence is living out our baptism. We can be physically present to people, giving them our full attention. It is possible to do this, even on a screen through technology. Be aware of the person (or people) you are with. Trust that God is acting through you towards this person. A deeper presence is necessary to fully be a presence (slight play on words here)! Listen with your eyes, ears, and heart. Listen for pain, hurt, and joy. Listen in love, and in these moments another person may be able to tell you their story in a new way. God can accomplish something of which we may be unaware, simply through being a presence.
“Truly I tell you, if you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25: 40