It just so happened that I went to the 7am Mass today and Joan, the director of Parish Outreach spoke during the Mass. Graceful, light, soft-spoken, her frailty makes her seem taller than she is, but her strength is cloaked in perseverance. She recounted a story about a little girl who asked her father, “Why are people poor?” She mentioned that there is a shortage of turkeys for Thanksgiving – out of 301 impoverished families in the parish, only 10 have turkeys. The sense of sadness in her voice pleaded to see what we, as a congregation, a community, could do. I thought of all the blessings I have had this and many years of my life. I remembered what it was like to have cans of food delivered to me when I broke my leg, lost members of my family to illness, lost job, property and almost hope. Maybe it is for this reason that I feel so strongly to give, to help and to speak for those who are unable or no longer feel the strength to speak for themselves. Maybe because I had been “there” and felt the personal shame and desperation of not knowing about tomorrow, or where the next helping hand might arise as I sat with a plaster cast up to the knee. Maybe for this, I feel that paying it forward now that such a dark period in life has passed is part of my mission in recognizing gratitude and easing pain on others if it is within my means. So I came home from Mass and asked my daughter what she could do before she left for work. She gave me money for a turkey. Then I asked her boyfriend. He gave me money for a turkey. Finally my friend stopped by to donate some gently-used toys for an outreach I collaborate with for another poor area of Long Island (yes, they do exist!). I mentioned the turkey appeal and she gave me money for a turkey. That makes three and my one will be four. As I shopped with four $20 turkeys in the grocery cart, I felt I was doing my part in alleviating circumstances beyond my control. As I delivered the four turkeys, I remembered that there is a Spirit of Goodness which we must always seek, despite circumstances to the contrary. Strength and hope many times are very difficult to find, to summon, to express, especially when the life we can’t control spins ‘out’ of control. To be able and present for others is a gift of those who have to give to those whose time is fraught with difficulty. Goodness, peace, hope and love, I believe will always be repaid in kind in God’s time. Thank you, Joan, for the little girl whose father answered so very wisely- “The downtrodden exist for others to find generosity in our hearts.” Understanding our part in creating goodness from grief is an enormous gift. As a little girl, Joan understood when asking her father for an explanation. Wherever we are in our lives now, we should examine our gifts and be present however we can for others.