Millie walked the neighborhood with her children. They were disheveled, but clean, wearing old, out of date clothes. Few knew where she lived but she took good care of them. The neighbors called her “the beggar.” She and her children spoke very little.
Once, she came to the rectory and said, “Father, I need two dollars. I’ll pay you back.” I’ve heard that many times before. After giving her the money, I forgot about it. Six months later, the parish secretary gave me a crumbled envelope with my name on it. Inside were two dollars and a thank you note from Millie. It was the first time anyone ever gave back money that I loaned them. As long as I stayed at this parish, Millie and her children walked the streets, waving to me as I drove by.
Millie returned to me more than the $2.00 that I loaned her. She gave me a new outlook on the poor and helped me see why Jesus commands us to reach out to them. In her and her children, I saw Christ. Whenever I see people who are homeless on street corners, sitting in alleys, or walking alone with their shopping bags, I better recognize their dignity, regardless of how they look, smell, or act. I recall that whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.
Order Fr. Hater’s new book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future. Related reading: check out Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World.