Any buzz I had going from my HappyLite was definitely killed by Fr. Dave’s holiday e-mail. A missionary who travels all around the world, his annual update read a little like a “State of the World” address. And if you’ve been reading the newspaper lately, that state isn’t so handsome. This male version of Mother Teresa didn’t mean to depress me or his other readers. On the contrary, he was reminding all of us blessed with so much to be grateful. He described his joyous Christmas celebrations–in different languages and traditions—with amazing choirs, drumming, and dancing.
But I got stuck on his portrayal of human suffering—”infectious diseases, inadequate infrastructures, housing and schools barely standing, lack of water for drinking or crops, rampant unemployment, and endless struggles for food.”
I walked away from the computer feeling like a pathetic creature who, while these hungry people search for food, can’t even handle a chemical imbalance of the brain. And I asked myself, How can I begin to relieve an itsy-bitsy piece of this human suffering?
Last summer I brainstormed with a deacon friend of mine on just that.
I suggested to him that we start a charity called “Little Ways,” based on St. Therese of Lisieux’s philosophy of doing little deeds with great love. I researched all kinds of foundations to find out how they began and how they ran.
“We should start with our parish,” I said. “Then we’ll expand to the diocese. If all goes well, we should be national in no time, making regular appearances on the ‘Today’ show.”
“Slow down, Therese,” he said. “We don’t have to save the world at once.”
He switched the subject. “How’s Eric’s mom?” he asked.
Why was he going there? I wanted to talk about national and international relief work that would earn us as much admiration for our efforts as Angelina Jolie gets for her work.
“Not great,” I replied. “She is living with my sister-in-law and can’t drive.”
“Why don’t you start there?”
Because I don’t want to, I thought. It’s so much easier helping people you don’t know. No buttons get pushed.
But Jesus didn’t say “Help those you want to help.” He said, “Help all those in need.” And my mother-in-law really was in need of company during the day.
I remembered Mother Teresa’s saying:
“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us…. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”
Thus began my weekly day-out with Nana.
One day, when I have more time, I still want to start a foundation. And I give what I can to my picks of reputable charities (The Salvation Army, Catholic Relief Services, and Society of St. Vincent de Paul). But starting at home isn’t a bad idea either.