It was a cold, dark night when I walked out of church on New Year’s Eve. As I held my little boy underneath the warmth of my coat, I saw them…
There was a family of 5 standing in the parking lot, shivering. They were talking to another parishioner, and I heard mention of food. Instantly something moved me because I realized that their youngest daughter was about the age of my own son.
I approached them and found out that they had been walking outside all afternoon trying to get some food for their family. My heart sank and I immediately called a friend of mine who runs a mission in the same town. This quickly became a group effort as some of our other friends in church offered to drive them to the mission and some St. Vincent de Paul members promised to check in on them. It united everyone, including my husband and parents, who were there as well.
Once we got them some food and some diapers, we found out a bit more about them. They had just moved here from Alabama in search of a better job. They had had enough to get them through Christmas, but had just run out of money because it was taking too long for the father to get a job.
Our hearts felt full as we dropped them home with enough supplies to last them through the holiday. My mom and I went shopping at a clearance store to get them some warmer sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, etc., to help them through the cold weather. It broke my heart to see those little kids shivering in the cold.
As my husband and I were getting ready to go to sleep that night, we talked about how easily that could have been our family. We are not well-off financially, but we have always been able to feed and keep our son and ourselves warm. Doing something to help others had brought us closer together as a couple and as a family. It reminded us of something we heard when we were preparing to get married: service to others always brings you closer together. It takes your minds off of whatever troubles you are having and makes you think about others besides yourselves. Some kind of service should be part of any relationship because it gives good practice in gratitude and generosity.
I am grateful to that family for reminding us of what we can do to help others. After this experience, any struggles we had seemed much less important in comparison. It also made me rethink the way I was living and serving my family.
I learned that service does not have to leave the house. Serving each other as a family unites us and pulls our attention off ourselves and on to those we love. I’ve found that even when I’m doing something mundane or undesirable, such as changing a diaper or cooking dinner, it is much easier to be cheerful when I am thinking about the other person while doing it. Something potentially yucky or boring becomes an act of love.
Although it was very gratifying to help this family in need, I have realized that I can continue this mindset of service every day in my own home. I am making an extra effort to do this by loving my husband and son in everyday life.