Friday December 21, 2007
I was with Marija in her kitchen in Medjugorje. I was telling her how several years ago in New York, Mayor Ed Koch gathered all the homeless people off the streets of New York. For one year he clothed and housed them for the specific purpose to train them for city jobs – from driving garbage trucks to cleaning the streets to skill positions, all according to how they progressed. The pay was enough for others to make a living and would certainly be enough for those trained to get everything together in life. I told Marija, “There were 2,600 people who were trained and then employed at the end of the year of training. By the end of the second year, not one single person out of the 2,600 was still employed! None of the 2,600 people, Marija! They all quit or had to be fired.” “Marija,” I said, “These people’s poverty and being on the streets is their fault.” Marija responded, “No!” I said, “Yes.” She said, “No.” And I said again, “Yes!” She said again, “No!” I said, “Marija, they had every opportunity, every possibility to make it.” Then Marija knocked me off my feet by saying, “There is the poverty of mind.” Instantly, I understood what she was saying. It was a stunning remark, profound in its meaning, and she was not talking about a lack of education for these people. I realized she was saying that many people are crippled in their minds as children. Some overcome it, but some do not. A child not raised in a proper family will be handicapped for the rest of their lives. They will have crippled thinking, crippled mentality, no self-discipline, no ability to carry through with responsibilities or achievements. Yes, there are the Tom Monahan’s who, through Domino’s Pizza, became a billionaire. He was an orphan, had no parents, but he attributed much of his overcoming the difficulties in life by being in an orphanage lead by demanding nuns. Others who have survived such difficulties often have mentors who intercept their paths, helping to instill something in their lives they could build upon to be stable. What of a child raised in a drunken house, a war zone, the total absence of love, where hate reigns? In this kind of environment, what is there to live for? No one likes you, lonely little children who grew up with no esteem, no vision to achieve anything. No reason to try because when you get back up after falling, there is no resilience to hold on too, once you fall back into the hole you have dug. No ability to love because no one’s there to love you. Crippled minds, “poverty of the mind.” Many people who live on the streets because they are not equipped mentally by parents or mentors who could have help from them in their life to be molded in a good way. It’s not about the capabilities one is born with or without. The environment the child is raised in has an impact throughout his life. A good formation will help a child to grow up and be all he can be with the attributes God gave him.
This is not addressing the spoiled and lazy group, or those who are damaged by excessiveness, no expectations from the parents except to give in to every one of their whims, and because of such upbringing cannot hold their own. This is a whole other subject. Those whom we are talking about are those who even do bad things, or are drunkards, etc., in the streets and yet wish they could be something else, but end up drowning in their misery. Christ taught us that as Christians, love must overcome our repugnance, even to people who by every appearance are in the hole by their own fault. Our Lady has come to show us what the human heart needs. It is not things. It is not money. What the human heart longs for, even for those without resilience and confined to the street by their mentalities, is love. Our Lady calls us, Her “little children”, to be that love, as the following event that happened at a restaurant tells so well. Our Lady wants you, as Her instruments, to give love from your heart.
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a highchair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, “Hi!” He pounded his fat baby hands on the highchair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment. I look around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.
“Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,” the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, “What do we do?” Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hi!” Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, “Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo!” Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence, all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments. We finally got through the meal and headed for the door.
My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. “Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man. Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.” Somehow I managed, “I will,” from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, “God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.” I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.
With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.” I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, “Are you willing to share your son for a moment?” when He had shared His for all eternity. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, “To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children.” Sometimes, it takes a little child to remind us of what is really important.
Our Lady said on December 25, 2000
Do something this Christmas by reaching out with love for those who need it, yearn and thirst for it most. It may be someone in your own home, on the street, or in a nursing home. Pray and God will let you be a little child, a saviour for them.
With the hope of the Child Who Wishes
To Convert the Entire World,