Uncle Tim - 2,169 miles, 102 hours
Dear Uncle Tim,
I thought of you the other day when I was working in the distribution dock of the food bank. In that area of the warehouse we help load food orders into the cars and trucks of partner agencies to take back and use in their various food programs. The very first group I had the privilege of assisting was none other than the Methodists! They were the first of many, many groups I assisted that day, but not the last religious group. In fact, I think it would have been safe to say that a large majority of the groups I helped were in fact church groups.
Mid way through the day, a pastor from one of the groups commented on my biblical name, and in turn gave me a pocket sized copy of the New Testament along with all the Psalms and Proverbs. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't opened up a Bible since Notre Dame, but I found the gesture from the pastor that day to be very genuine. When I got home, I cracked it open in search of nothing in particular, but happened upon Paul's Letter to the Philippians. In the second chapter, verse three and four, it reads, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others."
This passage struck a chord with me that day not only in its message and how it relates to my sabbatical, but also because of how I've seen the message being carried out by church groups here at the food bank every day. As I mentioned the majority of the groups I've worked with running food pantries or meal assistance programs have been religious groups, and that doesn't even count the overwhelming number of volunteers from mission groups I see pass through the food bank each day. At times I almost find myself wondering where all the help would come from and where would all the food go if it weren't for church groups. They are truly living out the message passed along in Paul's letter to the Philippians, and it's quite heart warming to see on such a regular basis.
I struggle most days with the idea of faith and religion and its place in society, but I think everyone could use a reminder like the one I was given, regardless of where it's coming from. In a day and age where it can be so easy to focus only on ourselves, and what we're going to do next, and how something is going to affect us, it's important to take time to help others - in any way we can. I feel fortunate to have had this quality be a part of our family's values for god knows how long, and to have had role models like you and Aunt Terry to remind us. I believe it was during Jackie's wedding speech that you said you both raised your kids to first and foremost be kind to others, and what a wonderful job they've all done.
When I tell people what I'm doing on my sabbatical, I've had many people reply with, "Oh, so you're a pastor then?" I chuckled at this the first couple times I heard it, but have grown more to understand why I get this response so often. I'm sure pastors and church groups will continue to help those in need and inspire others to do so, but hopefully my trip will do the same for some, even if it's only for a few hours.
Send my love back home to that ever growing family of yours, and see you soon under the mistletoe.