By Barb Arland-Fye
Walking in downtown Davenport on a wintery Sunday afternoon, I saw a man with tangled hair and trembling hands sitting on the sidewalk in a battered jean jacket. He asked me for some money. I hesitated and then said, “I can’t access my money right now.” He responded, “Oh, you can’t access your money on Sunday, the Lord’s Day.”
I took off my winter gloves, rummaged through my purse to get to my wallet, opened it and gave him some money. “Thank you, Ma’am,” he said. “Do you have any E-cigs (electronic cigarettes)?” I said, “No, have a good day,” and resumed my walk.
My brief interaction with this man caused me to examine my conscience on the issue of poverty. It’s easy to advocate for systemic change that will alleviate and eliminate poverty and homelessness. It’s not so easy to feel genuine warmth toward a stranger clearly in need of help who asks me for “E-cigs!”
One week later, while visiting family in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving, I read an article about the starving people in war-torn Yemen. A photo of an emaciated, wide-eyed boy accompanied the story that reported an estimated “85,000 children may have died from hunger since Saudi Arabia intervened in the war in Yemen three years ago” (Star Tribune, 11-22-18).
The story and photo impacted me as I anticipated a delicious Thanksgiving feast with relatives later that day. What could I do to help the suffering children and adults in Yemen,” I thought to myself as I laced up my shoes for a walk at the Mall of America. God’s intervention in my musings became clear when I entered the mall. People wearing bright yellow T-shirts crowded around a registration table for a “Walk to End Hunger” event.
An event representative, observing my bewilderment, said, “If you’re a regular mall walker you don’t have to worry about paying (the entry fee).” God’s nudge told me otherwise. I asked questions about the event, skimmed a brochure, and paid the entry fee. The proceeds from “Walk to End Hunger” won’t stop the crisis in Yemen; it will alleviate hunger and food insecurity in Minnesota. The unexpected walk event served as a reminder to respond to need whenever I come upon it.
Later, during the enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner in my brother and sister-in-law’s home, our conversation turned to the topic of generosity. I mentioned reading about a Quad-City philanthropist’s philosophy on life that stuck with me.
Dick Kleine, a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, identified three stages of life: learning, earning and returning. The opportunity to learn is followed by doing the work to earn, leading to a time to return — to give back to the community through leadership, volunteering and philanthropy. “He lives this belief every day,” said Sherry Ristau of the Quad Cities Community Foundation.
She nominated Dick for the award he received — Outstanding Philanthropist — from the Association of Fundraising Professionals IL, Quad Cities Chapter at the 2018 National Philanthropy Day Conference.
How can the stories of these people, whose lives impacted mine, inspire me this Advent to prepare the way of the Lord? I have decided on two “doable” activities. One, I plan to read the Book of Isaiah. The “Catholic Study Bible” editors describe Isaiah as “a great religious leader, whose oracles, of singular poetic beauty and power, constantly reminded his wayward people of their destiny and the fidelity of Yahweh to his promises.”
Two, I will participate in a prayer event at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, following the 9 a.m. Mass on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Bill Kneemiller will give a presentation on The Liturgy of the Hours, a truly uplifting Prayer of the Church. Please join us!
Finally, I’ll pray for the people of Yemen, for the commitment to follow Dick Kleine’s example and for the man who asked for money and E-cigs.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)