It’s Advent again. Happy New Year. As part of the editorial team that puts together this magazine, we have been planning this issue for a few months now. When we first met to brainstorm and plan, it seemed like such a long way off and suddenly here it is. The deadline is upon me and I have come up dry!
It’s not like I procrastinated (well not that much anyway), I did have a few ideas. I sat to write my column several times. I’d get three or four sentences, maybe a paragraph and then like the voice of Forrest Gump, I’d hear myself say “that’s all I gotta say bout that!”
As the deadline loomed, I was like the basketball player who throws a desperation “Hail Mary” throw at the buzzer. Oh, I prayed for the words, for an idea, for anything!!! In the strangest of ways, I did finally get my answer.
A few nights ago, very late, when there are not a lot of good TV shows to watch, I was awake. I stumbled upon a series of shows called “I’m Pregnant and…” These shows chronicle the pregnancy and birth of various women who have a stumbling block to a normal problem free birth. They range from “I’m pregnant and diabetic…or I’m pregnant and on heroin…or I’m pregnant and morbidly obese…” I realized how privileged I was, taking advantage of prenatal care with an OB/GYN, giving birth in a nice sterile environment, with all the medical teams in place should something go wrong.
The one that really broke my heart was “I’m Pregnant and…Homeless.” This couple were not the stereotypical homeless folk. They had a good committed relationship, the woman had recently lost her job and being pregnant, couldn’t find another. The father had a past of which he was not proud. It seems that in his teens, he had gotten in with a bad crowd and was arrested and did time for theft. Because of his record he also was trying his best to find employment to no avail. The little savings they had was rapidly depleted and before too long they found themselves homeless, dividing time between living in their car and in a tent set up out in the wilderness. The father would occasionally find a temporary part time job, mowing lawns, fixing houses etc. When they had no money they would panhandle, carrying signs in busy trafficked areas relying on the generosity of strangers. They showed the couple going to the supermarket with only $15.00 to their name, trying to buy healthy food for the mother and the baby she was carrying. Because they had no home, they could not get Food Stamps or welfare. On the visit to her doctor, the woman was told that there was a very good chance that Child Protective Services would remove the child from her care and put the baby in a Foster Home. I could feel their despair. As the time of delivery drew near, they did eventually work out a deal with a generous family, to barter the father’s services in return for a room to stay in. Finally having an address insured that they would keep their baby, and be able to get some government assistance until they could get out on their own.
What is my point in telling you all of this? I thought of Mary, and the show she could have produced. “I’m pregnant and A VIRGIN…or I’m pregnant and only 14 years old…or I’m pregnant and not married…or I’m pregnant and have no place to give birth” Yes, Mary and Joseph would have provided fodder for any number of these stories. So, it appears that the Holy Family, was not so different from us. Time, has not changed basic truths of humanity. In times of crises we need God, and we need each other. There is not one of us who can handle life alone. We are meant to be a community, a family.
And so, as Advent approaches let’s think about those who may be struggling and find a way to help. We might donate food, toys, clothing to those in need. We could volunteer at a soup kitchen, or make some food to give to a needy family. We could visit or phone that lonely neighbor, or friend we haven’t talked to in ages. Just think of the difference one small act could make. And for those who are even more blessed, maybe we are called to do something big. Could we pay it forward and pick up the bill for a struggling family at the supermarket? Could we open our home to provide a warm meal and night’s rest, with a warm shower?
Can you just imagine, the Holy Family, so grateful to finally have a place to rest that night, even if it was a smelly old barn or cave filled with animals? If the TV show had been around back then, the conclusion would have been mind blowing! I’m pregnant and the angels appeared, and the heavens opened to welcome my baby into the world, narrated by Mary. It’s something I will think about as we prepare for our Christmas celebrations of Christ’s birth.
St. Francis of Assisi ANCC (Glen Ridge, NJ)