I, Jimmy Henke, have suffered from the Notre Dame epidemic. While studying here I easily forget the world that is just beyond our campus. My world becomes divided into Notre Dame and not Notre Dame. The rest of the world seems so distant. I can easily become a victim of thinking that all of the troubles of the world are so far away and forgetting that I live in a dynamic South Bend community full of ups and downs. Thankfully, this year, I have the privilege of tutoring students at Hope Ministries in South Bend as a remedy to this delusion. I mostly work with a group of first and second graders. We make popcorn and try to work through their homework after school. This experience has challenged my conceptions of the South Bend community and allowed me to genuinely get to know some families here.
However, I am not alone in my struggles. Many of us act blind to the needs of all those around us. My heart is drawn to the Syrian refugees in their time of need. Thankfully I have seen many beautiful responses to their needs in the way of coat drives, awareness groups, and attempts to help some of their families feel at home. However, danger lurks behind this generosity of ours. We can easily forget the humanity hidden behind the suffering and think we are doing all that we should by donating a coat or two. Doing these things is great, but we cannot allow ourselves to take the easy way out. Mother Teresa said it well, “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home.” We can easily hide behind our generosity to those far away, a generosity that often lacks any real sacrifice, and fool ourselves into thinking we have fulfilled the command to love.
I don’t have to look far to find God’s people in need. Driving down Main Street in South Bend, I can find somebody needing a coat, a place to stay, somebody who needs someone to show them love. Walking around campus, I can find somebody suffering from depression, struggling with family issues back home, searching for someone to show them love. In my home, I can find somebody who needs a listening ear, who needs relief from their day, who needs somebody to show them love. I am sure that each one of us comes across countless people every day who are in need of God’s love and care for them. Showing that love requires effort and sacrifice day in and day out; but, that is the love that will transform our world.
I guess I want to end this reflection with a challenge. Since we are in the month of Advent, adding a challenge to our faith life is appropriate and encouraged by the Church. Maybe we can take five minutes in our morning to brainstorm how we can reach out to someone we know. Maybe it’s emptying the dishwasher for Mom. Maybe it’s listening to that coworker that gets on your nerves. Maybe it’s taking some time off work and spending time with our families. Love begins in the intentional way we live each moment, day in and day out. Hopefully, by preparing ourselves in this way, we will be ready to welcome the refugee who arrives at our front door just as we would welcome Jesus.
Mr. James Henke was a student at the University of Notre Dame for two years before transferring into the Old College Undergraduate Seminary Program. He and his fellow seminarians regularly lend their news and views to the Spes Unica Blog. James is originally from Greenwood, Indiana.