24 January MMXVII
Last week I received compliments on my middle school son that I will treasure eternally. Within an hour, I was contacted by two of his teachers who also happen to be my friends…one an old friend and one “new”. I have known the old friend for well over three decades. We attended the same Catholic school that my children attend now. I have known the “new” one nearly a decade now…I suppose she is no longer really a new friend after all. Our boys are close friends and their friendship has fostered the one we now share. Both of these people know my son well. They have both taught him and mentored him and shepherded his heart from young boyhood into adolescence. Hearing from either of them about my boy carries great weight with me.
They each contacted me during the school day shortly after they had attended church with him that morning. They reported that he had spoken on behalf of the school’s Junior St. Vincent DePaul Society which volunteers at our local homeless shelter feeding people and organizing school wide food drives. They each thought that I would want to know how my son had publicly addressed the issues of hunger and homelessness with his fellow students and how he had so clearly spoken from his heart. They both emphasized that his words were deeply heart-felt and authentic.
I thanked both of them for sharing this glimpse of my son with me. I was touched deeply to hear of him bearing his heart. His sharing it surprised me but what it held did not. I am well aware that, of all of my children, this middle son of mine has the most tender heart which he keeps closely guarded within the toughest shell. I spent the remainder of the school day reflecting on what could have moved his inside sentiments to the outside. And I knew. Because I know my boy better than he yet knows himself, I knew.
He has been involved with feeding the hungry in our hometown for over two years now. It has always resonated with him and made him feel warm and fuzzy. But now it breaks his heart
Until recently, the hungry and the homeless have been strangers he has encountered for fleeting, measured moments. He did not really have to let them into the tenderest part of his already tender heart. But now, when my son thinks of the hungry and the homeless, they have the face and the name of one he loves deeply. Now when he encounters hunger and homelessness, he sees the face of his sister.
Song-Felicity spent the majority of her life in an orphanage after being found abandoned by parents who desperately loved her but could not care for her needs. Her brother knows that her file reveals that she arrived there “malnourished”. He has witnessed how she rejoices at meal times, how her being hungry gives rise not only to feelings of mere physical discomfort, but to great fear within her as well. He has witnessed her repetitive inquiries of “Mama, my home?” “Baba, my home?” as she ceaselessly seeks reassurance from us that she is loved, that she belongs, that she is home to stay. Witnessing her heart healing has broken each of ours. A haunting history of hunger and homelessness now abides within our family. Once hungry and homeless. Now safe and secure. All the while treasured and beloved by parents on both sides of the sea. Song-Felicity’s history will forever be a part of her and, now, a part of us.
His tiny sister is teaching a lesson to my son and to his siblings that no amount of my teaching or preaching could have ever taught. In our family, hunger and homelessness are no longer tucked neatly into fleeting measured moments. Amongst us, a history of hunger and homelessness dwell behind the dark, deer-like eyes and silky black hair of a beloved part of us who still sucks her thumb when she is sleepy. The hungry and the homeless have seeped through every single crack of these hearts that have been forever broken by, and broken open for, them.
I witnessed unexpected and breathtaking beauty in the awareness that my son’s love for his sister has now spilled over into his love for mankind. Global hunger and homelessness have been intertwined with his love and affection for his once hungry and homeless sister. I can do nothing but quietly rejoice in my awareness that it was this sensitive and awakened heart of my boy that spoke and broke through his words that day.
“Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “You know I love You.” Jesus replied, “Feed My lambs.” JOHN 21:15