My best moments of the SEEK conference were spent under a highway bridge. A group of us missionaries went on street walks around San Antonio and one day, I met a guy named Quinton at a spot under a bridge. Quinton was different from the other homeless people we talked to around there. He allowed himself to be seen. This was the fast track to understanding who he was. Taking a few seconds to fully look into his gaze, I saw pain, sorrow, and suffering but also a man who wasn’t afraid to let himself be seen by another. Broken, but still open to the love of four strangers who just happened to stop by to talk.
“What are you kids doing standing here, still talking to me?”
Without thinking I replied, “we are friends, Quinton, we’re just hanging out.”
He held up his hand, “I can count the number of true friends I have on my right hand.”
“I am lucky to be one of them,” I don’t know what moved me to say this, but deep down I truly felt it.
As I continued to talk with him, he started saying, “He knows what I’ve done.” Quinton kept repeating this over and over again. “He knows what I’ve done.”
I didn’t really know what to say back to him but, “I have to admit, I’m right there with you, Quinton. It is so beyond me. How does God do it? God knows all the mistakes I’ve made and all the mistakes I am going to make. Yet He still loves me. All we can do is receive it.” I gave him the Litany of Trust and showed him my favorite line: “that Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me… Jesus, I trust in you.”
Not too long after, something happened that rarely ever happens with a friend on the street. Quinton said he didn’t want to live like that anymore. He wanted to get off the streets. He wanted to go to rehab. So quickly, I went into missionary mode, shuffling around important documents, as he handed me copies of his licenses and birth certificate- the things worth pure gold when you live on the streets. I called rehab, but they couldn’t take him until the next day. I told Quinton to go at 9am and offered to meet him and walk with him there. He wouldn’t let me because he didn’t want to bother us. But I reminded him, “you are not bothering us, Quinton. We’re friends, remember. “
I never saw Quinton after that day. I don’t know if he went to rehab, but I pray for him every day and hope I get to see him again one day. I don’t know how we became friends in 45 minutes or why God put him into my life. I don’t know how Jesus can jam so many people into my small and weak heart. But He lets it happen, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for Quinton and for that time spent under a bridge.
What joy a friendship can be, and mine with you is one I am constantly overjoyed to have. Arriving at CIC, God couldn’t have surprised me more than to provide such a unique friend. You may be an old geezer, but I appreciate you nonetheless. Friendship is described as “taming” by one of my favorite books, The Little Prince:
“I am looking for friends.” said the Little Prince. “What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
l know you love professional drag racing, so let me try for a metaphor to explain our friendship with some horsepower attached to the engine. The faster acceleration and the higher top speed are both components to make the car win in the race. In a friendship, what makes the friendship “win” is sharing life- its sorrows and joys, as well as what makes us unique; it’s a gift of one’s self to the other. I get it, right? But I think you will agree with me, every highway needs a lane going in both directions for cars to drive safely. Just as for a friendship to survive, we both need to share ourselves to the other without judgment. You have done that for me and I have been able to do that for you.
Do you remember that first day we were at Lunch in the Park and you came up, and said, “I have never had a white friend before, Robby. In the south, it isn’t like it is here. They are still stuck in the old days, the past times, you’re the first white friend I have ever had.” I don’t know if you know, Lee, but where I’m from there aren’t too many black people. I even remember at one point praying to God asking for more diverse friends, and lo’ and behold here you came with your swag and southern Louisiana style. Because of you, I’ve learned that there is diversity among us, but that we have more similarities than differences. You’re human just as I am; no color difference, no difference in dignity or difference in being a child/son of God.
“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” – The Little Prince
What a gift friendship can be when it’s revealed in the most unlikely of places. Every one of us has been gifted with unique encounters. Mine just happens to have a big toothy white grin and a bald head with charm for everyone! I really do appreciate our conversations about Bandimere and fast cars, food from Louisiana, and crazy girls in America no matter the state.
My prayers will be you, my friend.
Where is Your Calcutta?
By: Marie Foley
When I was selected to partake in a summer medical mission to the Philippines, I was definitely excited, but also really skeptical. I looked forward to the adventure and I honestly did desire the opportunity to serve others, but in no way did I feel capable. I didn’t know how Christ was going to use me because I didn’t feel qualified. How could I help? What could I offer? Yet despite these doubts, I prepared for my journey. Our goal as a mission was to show all the villagers that we were acknowledging their humanity and giving them the love and attention we knew they deserved. Lots of humans need physical and material attention, they are suffering, they are starving, they are hurting, but all humans need love. You can bring medicine, but true change happens when you bring love. All humans need love.
I was blessed with an opportunity to bring love to an elderly woman named Helen. The Missionaries of Charity sisters found Helen in a mental hospital, where she was strapped to a wooden board as her bed and wasn’t moved for many days or potentially weeks. She was deprived of human interaction, spoken words, and even human touch. Due to this awful physical abuse, Helen had over 20 deep bedsores that were eroding away her skin on her wrists, on her ankles, and completely down her back. These gaping wounds were visible through her muscles, down to her bones, and even touched her skull. When the sisters found Helen, there was a worm crawling out of her skull. The degree of her pressure ulcers was so severe that she was unconscious and could not move. The sisters rescued Helen, picked her up, and carried her back to their home so that they could give her the care she deserved.
Two sisters asked me to give Helen a bed bath, so I grabbed a soft towel and warm bucket of water and carefully washed away the dirt and dust away from her arms and her legs. Then I sat down next to Helen and brought her towards me so I could wash her back. With her back pressed close to my stomach, I held Helen close to my lap. As I placed my hands on the ribs of this dying, forgotten, unconscious woman, I glanced to my right and saw the small crucifix that was sitting next to her pillow.
I was struck. I peered into the open wounds on Helen’s skull and saw the open wounds in Jesus’ side. In that moment, I knew that I was holding the body of Christ here on earth. I felt like Mary, who had held the mistreated, forgotten and abused body of Jesus in her arms after He had been taken off the crucifix.
All throughout Catholic grade school and high school I was always told to “treat others as you would treat Jesus,” but I never knew how to do that until I held Helen in my arms. The same Jesus, who two thousand years ago was nailed to a cross, is still here on earth being nailed to wooden boards — in the Philippines, in our own country, and in our own homes. Mary was letting me hold the body of her Son in that moment and I was overwhelmed with a responsibility to love. By giving my life to the service of others, I was truly giving my life to Jesus.
When you let Christ break your heart, it’s not something you can just forget and leave across the ocean. The Philippines rocked my world because I was shown what it truly means to love without counting the costs; to love until it hurts. Our world is starving for love. Love isn’t something that needs a degree, a plane ticket, a qualification, or honestly any training. Love just needs a “yes.” As Pope Francis said, “anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and show that love.” We all have a vocation to go out and show love. Where is your Calcutta?
Marie is a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying Secondary Mathematics Education. She is going to India this summer for a mission trip, enjoys eating popcorn for every meal, driving minivans, and drinking coffee.