I am stuck here, mostly sitting with my left leg propped up with ice on it to keep swelling down, (I had knee replacement surgery March 18th) doing nothing productive. The first few days I was either too dopey or hurting too bad to come up with anything to write or even talk about and now I’m beginning to feel just plain lazy. I have used this time to talk to individual family members and communicate via text with others. Checking in with one another, chatting like we did years ago over the phone. I browse Facebook, click on silly videos or animals and song parodies of how others are surviving and making light of our collective isolation.
I am so done with watching news programs, CNN, MSNBC and even FOX are saying the same thing. And now Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie is making enemies on both sides by his refusal to go along with the majority and get this 2 trillion-dollar aid package passed. What’s new? If not him, then someone else would have to step up and be the A-hole of the week.
No, I’m done with all that. I wish I could write something deep and meaningful, lessons I’ve learned, what we all learned, these past few weeks living on top of each other, trying to be good citizens. But I know I have nothing to add.
I wanted to find a deep spiritual tome to ponder and meditate upon while I’m physically incapacitated, but the book I’ve been trying to read, Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution by Kathleen Duffy, has been keeping its secrets from me, so I have abandoned it, at least for now.
One thing thing I read today made a dent in my armor. A Facebook post about a 72 year-old Italian priest, Father Giuseppe Berardelli. Giusepe who was hospitalized with COVID-19 gave up his respirator that was purchased for him by his parishioners, to another younger man, whom he did not know. He died to save this other. His name may not be remembered long after this pandemic blows over and most of us will continue doing what we do and not be affected by this, the ultimate sacrifice. Laying down ones life for another. Not just your family or friends, or being a hero in battle, saving others, only to die. This freely given, my life for another, this act of agape love broke through my wall of self-pity today.
This man’s martyrdom was not brought about by torture via lions or fire unto death unless he recants his faith. No one was nailed to a cross to die, only to rise from the dead in three days. NO, this humble priest quietly gave up his life for another. As my 99-year-old friend would have said “He’s got a crown of gold waiting in heaven.”
Then I recalled another humble act of self-giving that I heard about first hand, something as simple as being decent to another human being, cut to my heart, because I knew that I would never have done what this woman did.
I do volunteer work for Saint Vincent de Paul Society. We do home visits and help with food, and other needs that are presented to us.
Several months ago, we met JD a scrawny 50 something tattooed gray pony-tailed guy. He was new to the area and had nothing in his 4th floor apartment. We learned that JD used to be a bull rider, until he broke his back, and that he lived all over the country. He showed us a photo of his adult daughter who lives across country. We really liked JD. We took care of his needs, prayed with him and left.
On a subsequent home visit to another client in the same building, we ran into JD in the hall. He smiled and gave us a short update on his job. We left him to knock on the other door, to see our client, B. who is caring for her grandchildren. She asked for food assistance and some clothing for the kids. We knew B and listened to her as she caught us up on her family. Then she asked if we knew JD and went on to explain: “I told him to call you. I met him at the bus stop. He was sleeping on the bench. Homeless. I brought him home with me and let him sleep on the couch. I talked to the landlord and he let him have the apartment upstairs with no down payment. I told JD to call St. Vincent to get stuff he needed.”
This is what stuck with me. In fact, it is still a thorn in my crawl, because I who say I represent Jesus, would never bring a homeless man home to sleep on my couch. I can site a dozen reasons why I would not, safety, health, common sense, ect. But would I have even spoken to JD? I’m sure he was disheveled, dirty and very sketchy looking. I may have given him a few dollars or ignored him completely. Another thing that also struck me is the race thing. B is an African American grandmother who would lay her life down for the children in her care. Yet she did something I could never do. And I don’t ever want to do. She was the Good Samaritan to the other. She was Jesus. She laid down her life, regardless of the possible risk to self and family, to give another a better life.
So here I am on Day 9 of my recovery in lock-down and I have two examples of sacrificial love. Laying down one’s life for another, actual and metaphorically. Father Giuseppe Berardelli and B have laid up treasure where moths and floods and fire and thieves will not reach it. They will be judged on their actions, not words nor pious prayers nor church attendance. And here I sit lacking in all categories set forth by Matthew chapter 25: 34-40.
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”