By Ellen Romer
*For my preaching course, the assignment was to preach the week’s readings as if we were at a family Mass and/or talking to young people. This is what I came up with.
I hate borrowing things from people. I really do. It makes me feel so weird inside. When I was growing up I was always the kid who forget their pencil. Or their homework (even though I had done it!). Or their lunch money. I even forgot to brush my hair a lot. Were you that kid in school, like me? Or were you like some of my friends, who always had their hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail with the ribbon, who had very neatly organized pencil box? I found pencil boxes to be a bit of a waste for me, because everything ended up in the bottom of my bag or under my bed or somewhere and then I had no pencil. I didn’t mean to be careless I just am not the person who remember pencils. Even now, I have to keep a secret stash of pens in my desk at work. Being the forgetful one, it was always the worst to have to ask for a pencil. Or to go get something out of my locker. Or to scour in the bottom of my bag for loose change so I could get some lunch.
There were definitely people who were very very kind to me. Their parents had a billion back up boxes of pencils, so they didn’t mind sharing one with me and didn’t ask for it back. I also remember the kids who looked at me like I was so annoying. There she goes again, asking for another pencil. My fiance tells me I apologize way too much. I think its a bad habit from always asking the other kid for a pencil and either starting or ending with “I am so sorry!” And I really was. I didn’t want to a burden. But I needed a pencil.
I think that this sort of lifelong experience of being forgetful has really opened me up to sharing. I like sharing and helping people. I am not always as good at is as I could be, but luckily I don’t care a whole lot about stuff so it doesn’t bother me to share. Everyone finds themselves in a place where they need help, where they need to borrow things. I never would want anyone to feel like they couldn’t ask for help.
Jesus tells us today that we are to love God with our whole selves, our minds, hearts and souls. And the next most important thing is loving our neighbor. There is a lot of love going on here, so how do we actually do that? How do we show our love for God and neighbor? Our first reading gives us a suggestion for how to do that – Be there to help when people ask for help.
It may seem silly, but giving someone a pencil or something else they have forgotten and need, even though it is just a little thing, it makes a difference. Because it isn’t just about the pencil. Yes I needed it, what else would I write with? What the worst part was about asking, was that little moment when I wasn’t sure what the person was going to say. Were they going to think I was lazy? That I didn’t care? Especially when I was a kid in school, I worried if they would still like me! The good feeling didn’t come from someone giving me a pencil, it came when I knew that I hadn’t totally screwn up and I was still their friend or a part of the class. Being the odd person out is awful! That’s why we hear in the first reading that we are supposed to be kind to the widow, the orphan and the alien. In that time, those were the people who needed help the most. They were in the position to easily be told ‘we don’t want you here anymore.’ I have never met anyone who was told they were unwanted and unwelcome and walked away feeling ok about it. And the reading also tells us that when we do help out, it isn’t for our benefit, but for theirs. You don’t ask someone to pay you back more than you lent them. You lend something to someone because they need help, not because we can get something out of it. It isn’t about the pencil. It is making sure everyone is treated like a neighbor, especially the people who are the closest to being left out.
So next time someone asks to borrow something. Or for any kind of help. Just remember – treat your neighbor like yourself. What kind of response would you hope for if you needed help? Can you give someone a pencil? Or can you be a neighbor?