I remember when I was teaching social justice to high school seniors how we discussed the footprint of justice: charity and systemic change. Fighting with kindness as well as getting to the root of the problem. Twenty one years later I recognize I have been fortunate to do both (this is a photo of St. Joseph House, a transitional housing resource for homeless women and children supported in part by our Benedictine community). Systemic change is essential to eliminating poverty, homelessness, hunger, war etc completely.
In the past 4 years my work with homeless women and children has, actually, enabled families to get out of homelessness and find stability. In a small way that represents systemic change. More deeply, however, I have been involved in the charity that reaches out in kindness to alleviate, even if momentary, another’s suffering, pain, sorrow or other circumstance. (A Benedictine value and practice.)
According to Thomas Keating, charity is related to the Greek agape and means ‘self giving love rather than self seeking love.’ That said, we must recognize we do nothing good on our own…it is the Spirit who guides us when we listen.
So many things in my work with the homeless are not of me but from God who guides. I have meet tremendous people, had funds appear when we were broke, had volunteers when we were not sure who could do it, received grants for major capital projects when the roof leaked, two furnaces quit and two houses needed renovation. All of us involved have found it a really Spirit experience how what we needed was given when we were doubtful. To truly be self giving is total fruit of believing in the Spirit.
Sometimes I think humans innately self seek rather than other seek. Honestly, it can be difficult to be charitable…to be compassionate, to share food, time, space or whatever the other needs. Of course, it is easier to reach out to friends but what about strangers, enemies, immigrants, the poor?
True charity is giving out of what we have for the good of others. It goes far beyond giving materials but reaches in to give of our love. I am not that terrific and am basically self seeking in love…however, what little I can give of myself stems from trusting in the Spirit.
I firmly trust the Spirit will lead and I will know what to do when I need to…or a situation will be okay even when I am anxious or my future will be made known even when I wonder what it will be like. Believing in the Spirit is trusting ‘all will be well.’
How has the Spirit blessed you with the fruit of Charity? Where in your life have you made a difference for another? How is your trust in the Spirit these days?