Michaela Dean, Youth & Young Adult Minister
While on the mission trip to Cincinnati in June with the High schoolers we had a speaker come to talk with us about people experiencing homelessness. The speaker told us her story of experiencing some level of homelessness her entire life. It started out with her family always living with friends and family, never having an apartment of their own. Then they moved to California to live with other family members, and she got pregnant while still in high school. Her friends there threw her a baby shower and supported her through the pregnancy, but then no one was there at the hospital or after. She said it was her first experience knowing she was being looked down upon solely for her situation in life. Her daughter had many health issues, and eventually died from them. She moved back to Cincinnati where a housing crisis is occurring. There are 40,000 more people in Cincinnati than places for them to live, so when she moved here to be near family, she had to live on the streets. People wouldn’t look at her, give her the time of day, and would treat her like dirt just because she couldn’t afford to put a roof over her head that didn’t exist. She said the worst was when people would actively avoid looking her in the eye or cross the street just to avoid her. She is being helped with basic necessities like showers, laundry, food, and a PO box so she has an address to use for documents and mail, but she is still experiencing homelessness. When the kids asked what they could do to help, her response was simply change your attitude and language around it. The biggest one being using the term “people experiencing homelessness” instead of calling them “homeless people.” We can donate to shelters, to organizations, people at highway exists, people on the street, etc., which is all good and is filling a need, but she said giving people experiencing homelessness their dignity back is far more important.
I was reminded of this story because the first reading and the Gospel today speaking about humility, the counter virtue of pride. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and is the root of all sin. Pride manifests itself in many ways, some of which are: desiring to be considered better than we really are, thinking of ourselves as superior to others, dwelling on the defects of others, taking credit for God’s work in our lives, and thinking we know better than God does. However, counter to what most people think, humility is not thinking less of yourself and putting yourself down, it is simply thinking of yourself less. Its judging yourself and others as no more and no less than they truly are. It is a spirit of self-examination, modesty, and respect of yourself and others.
How Christians treat and talk about people experiencing homelessness is a great example of how we can respond to a situation out of pride or humility. Many Christians go above and beyond to help clothe, feed, shelter, and provide for the homeless through organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, or even inviting friends and family in hard times into their homes. However, many Christians accuse all people experiencing homelessness of being greedy and lazy, accusing them of using any money they get for drugs and alcohol, and blaming them for their situations, looking down on them and treating them as the speaker described.
Jesus tells us over and over in the Gospel to love our neighbors as ourselves, not just our rich neighbors, not just our friends and family, or the people who are in the same station of life as us, but all our neighbors especially the downtrodden. Why not start with your words and attitude towards people experiencing homelessness? Start with not avoiding them. Start with making eye contact with them and just smiling. Start with asking them their name and offering to pray for them, give them the dignity they deserve. Jesus says to invite them to your banquet and “blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Megan Sparks, Incarnation Special Needs Coordinator
Many times, we do not see what God is doing in our lives until we look back on everything that has happened to us. When I graduated from the Ohio State University, I did not know why I decided to volunteer for Special Olympics, there were so many different things that a young, single, recent college graduate could do with her time, but I spent my time coaching various sports.
I met my husband while volunteering, and two years later we were married. Soon we were eager to welcome our first child, Zachariah, into our little family. I had so many plans for Zac; he was going to be my assistant Coach for all the sports that I was coaching, and then he would go off to be a Buckeye and some day run the world. You can imagine my shock and disbelief when the doctor told us that he had Autism when he was 19 months old… our whole world changed that day.
I did not even realize that God had been preparing me for the reality of Zac’s autism. Because of my work with Special Olympics, I already had a support system and mentors who would help guide me. Families with special needs children often feel completely alone and do not know where to turn. What is even sadder is that many people feel that they can no longer attend Church.
I am happy to say that Incarnation is trying to reach out to these families to show them that they are not alone, and that they have a home here. We are currently offering a Sensory Room during the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass. The Mass is being live-streamed into the brides’ room. This allows those who may need a break during Mass to still participate. The last three pews closest to the brides’ room are reserved for special needs families so they can come and go easily.
In September we are kicking off our Special Needs Ministry! Once a month we will be offering special needs families a family activity night where they can spend quality time together in a safe environment. We are also offering respite care once a month to help parents have a night to themselves. It is so hard to find a babysitter for special needs children, and all parents need a break.
We are a new ministry, and we need help. First, welcome these families when you see them at Mass. If their child is moving or making noise, don’t stare, but if you find yourself looking, offer a smile. These parents are doing their best, and they want to instill the faith in their child.
If you are available the fourth Saturday of the month, volunteer to help with respite care. Come meet these great individuals and get to know them. We are looking for middle school, high school, and adult volunteers to make a difference and make this program a success. During an interview Jim Tressel quoted Edward Everett Hale by saying: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” I hope you pray about joining us.