Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Can I Give a Hand?

Every day, here and in other centers, so many persons, mostly young people, queue for a hot meal. These people remind us of the suffering and tragedies of humanity. But that queue also tells us that it is possible for all of us to do something now. Suffice it to knock on the door, and try to say: “I’m here. How can I give a hand?
~Pope Francis

Many thanks to Rocco Palmo for posting the transcript from the Pope's address to asylum seekers. The above quote, the conclusion of the Holy Father's comments, elicit just a few comments from me this morning. 

I know a woman, professionally very successful and well-established in her career, who this semester enrolled in law school. She continues to be active in her community, generous to her friends, and has not left her previous - and highly demanding - job. Yet, as she looks to the future, her own life's history of love and generosity gave her the courage to imagine how she might use her considerable talents to help others. She enrolled in law school, not out of blind ambition or with an eye toward climbing a ladder of success, but with the hope that she'd be able eventually to offer her services in legal aide clinics. At a time when others might be dreaming of perfecting one's golf game or augmenting the wine cellar, she dares to ask how she might be called anew to serve others. Even though it's intimidating to begin law school right out of college, let alone after having been a successful professional, she feels within her heart the desire to risk knocking, to risk announcing, "I'm here. How can I give a hand?

I think back to September 11, 2001, and the memories of heroic first-responders are seared into my memory. Such images are similar to those recalled in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. In a flood of confusion and tragedy, there were many women and men who "knocked" that day with their very lives, offering their whole selves to give a hand in an hour of need. Rather than running from the chaos and terror, they found the courage to run into it. They gave, not according to any calculation, but out of their utter generosity to their brothers and sisters in the human family. 

It cannot be denied that our society faces many problems and challenges. We are seduced into surrender, into throwing our hands up and saying, "I'm but one person! What can I do?" 

We hear from Pope Francis, perhaps, the best response to this question. Instead of asking, "What can I do?" and then returning to business-as-usual ask, instead, "How can I give a hand?" No, you cannot alone solve the world's problems. No, you alone cannot change the course and flow of history. No, you cannot place yourself at the center of the world and become the architect of a new regime. That may sound like heaven to you, but it's hell for the rest of us!

Instead, offer your hand. I shall offer my hand. Alone, one person's hands may not be able to accomplish much. Together, however, we can offer our hands in the service of the poor, the needy, and forgotten. If we offer our hands only for the occasional handshake or the 45-seconds needed to say the Lord's Prayer in church on Sunday, then we certainly do not do enough! But if we allow our hands to be guided by the hands of the Pierced One, the Risen One; if we allow ourselves to be molded by the hands of the One who cried, "Into your hands I commend my spirit!"; if we offer our hands to the Lord and ask that he guide us, just as one would guide the hands of a child learning to write, imagine the story we could write in history. 

It will start with a hand. I'll lend a hand. But where the hand goes, the arm follows. Then the shoulder. Then the whole person. And finally the heart. 

If you have the courage to dare asking, "How can I give a hand?" you risk more than a cost of a few volunteer hours. You risk your very heart which, touched by the needs of the world around you, will never be the same after having surrendered itself in the loving service of those in need. 

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