The U.S. Department of State has released the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, which provides an updated, global look at the nature and scope of human trafficking and the broad range of government actions to confront and eliminate it.
During these summer days, I love that the sun sets later, allowing me to soak up summer beauty throughout the evening. I find so much joy in seeing flowers blooming and birds tweeting around. There is something bright and hopeful about summertime when children are seen playing in the streets and the smell of barbecues can be found on the weekends.
Yet there is still work to be done in the summertime. We’ve been aware of the continual struggle to save health care and protect the vulnerable who would lose the most with the proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act. So while we are enjoying long sun-filled days this summer, the world can look a bit dark and hopeless.
Since Election 2016, we’ve been talking a lot about how to persevere through disheartening times and destructive policies. We know that policies must be constructed while keeping in mind that all citizens and individuals are our brothers and sisters.
In early June I was introduced to a short clip of a speech by Valerie Kaur. This speech was given shortly after Election 2016 and describes both her concern and hope.
Watch the short video here.
Valerie asks “what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb. What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What if this is our nation’s great transition?”
The darkness of the womb will soon bring light and life. This labor may be long and painful, but Valerie reminds us, “What does the midwife tell us to do? Breath, and then push.” During these summer days, it’s important to relax, to breathe, and not to try to fix everything in a day. What do we want to give birth to in this great transition?
Research has shown that giving makes us far happier than receiving.
Now, there is a new study showing that there are connections in the brain between areas associated with generosity and areas related to happiness. The research suggests that the joy of giving starts in the brain.
While I found it intriguing that the study found a neural link between generosity and happiness, I couldn’t help but wonder: what about the heart?
I am a firm believer that giving begins with the heart. I believe that we each must decide in our hearts if we are willing to give and what we will give.
Our attitudes toward material things reflect the condition of our hearts – we can check our attitudes to see if we have a “getting” heart or a “giving” heart.
Is what we have never enough and are we always seeking more? Or do we put others first and do everything in our power to make a difference?
Is our heart devoted to material things? Or is it devoted to God and/or humanity?
We can find out if we have a giving heart by checking areas of our lives that require giving. Here are some examples:
- Do we offer to help a loved one or try to stay busy so we don’t have to?
- Do we offer to mentor or encourage others?
- Do we skip a break to help a co-worker finish a project?
- Do we help clean up after an event?
- Do we take interest in the marginalized?
- Do we listen attentively to conversations?
- Do we willingly give up the last piece of the dessert?
All of the above require us to put others first – exactly what a giving heart does.
Over the weekend, I was standing in line at a dollar store when I noticed a little boy – probably about 4 years old – standing in front of the automatic door. He exclaimed to his father “It opens by itself!” His father explained that it opens when you stand it front of it.
The youngster approached the door twice as if he was testing it to see if his father was right. Then he walked over and stood by his mother in the check-out line.
A few moments later, a lady approached the door and the little boy ran over to stand in front of it. As she walked into the store, the boy looked up at her and said: “I opened it for you!”
With a broad smile on her face, the lady looked down at the boy and said: “Thank you so much!”
The boy returned a beaming smile and said “You’re welcome!” He then skipped back over to his smiling parents.
A small act of kindness can go a long way.
The Bible says “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I believe that when people are generous, they discover the joy of giving.
Whether the willingness to give begins in the brain or heart, I am convinced that there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you have made a difference in the lives of others. It only takes one small act of kindness to make the world a happier place.
Who would think a health care place would not be a place for finding peace? I must say, at our Sansbury Care Center in St. Catharine, Kentucky, peace and inspiration are always present and spreading out endlessly.
I am not the only person who shares this feeling at this place. One time, I took my confirmation students to Sansbury where they learned much about the Sister’s stories as well as received the wisdom and faithfulness of our Sisters. Most importantly, the students felt at peace with the Sisters. Some even shared in letters to the Archbishop of Louisville that this experience with our Sisters was their favorite memory from the confirmation class.
Recently, while sitting in front of Sansbury, I saw two Sisters going outside in their electric wheelchairs. Both are 99 years old with 80 years each in religious life. They sat in the sunlight facing each other. From afar, I could see their smiling faces as they shared a peaceful, joyful moment. The beautiful landscape and nice weather added to their peaceful presence and made me feel a touch of heaven right here on earth.
“You are really Dominican Sisters of Peace!” I said as I approached them.
“Yes, we are. We are really at peace.” They replied with beautiful smiles.
This is exactly what being a Dominican Sister of Peace is about. We strive to bring peace to every moment we live, regardless of any physical limitation or age. These two Sisters did not know how much peace and inspiration they brought to me on that day. When I shared this moment with an Ursuline Sister, she said, “They are wisdom figures.”
Because the world we are living in is so violent in so many ways, we need more wisdom figures for peace like these Sisters at the Sansbury Care Center. That is why our mission to BE PEACE, BUILD PEACE, and PREACH PEACE is so precious and wonderful. It responds to the needs of our world. In this inspired mood, I heard a challenging invitation inside me; “Would you and your congregation call yourselves together as a whole to discuss deeply this ongoing peace mission?” Would you consider this invitation to be a peacemaker too?
For women under 50, who feel called to live and build God’s peace, we encourage you to discern your call in religious life with the Dominican Sisters of Peace by contacting one of our Vocation Ministers.
Our ancestors: almost all immigrants to the U.S. at some time in our family history. Refugees from wars, persecuted for their faith, fleeing famine, carrying dreams of a better life or a desire for adventure. Our ancestors in faith: called by name, given a mission and the promise “I will be with you,” proceeding without detailed instructions or full understanding. Our Dominican ancestors and founders: from Germany, from Cabra, from Slovakia, from the hills of Kentucky, the plains of Kansas, the bayous of Louisiana.
Wherever they originated, wherever they settled, whatever their conception of their opportunity or mission, we know this for certain: beginnings were not easy. They knew privation, discomfort, lack of housing, unfamiliarity with English, dissension in the ranks, illness, problems with pastors and bishops, the mistrust of the people among whom they settled. And they never quite settled, either. They moved on. Communities grew, expanded to new houses, new cities and towns. They founded schools and hospitals and orphanages, served the poor and immigrants, and all this in and from their own poverty.
They made do. In New York, they lived in a rectory basement. In New Orleans they made their first habits out of sheets. In Detroit postulants pulled weeds on the greens of the adjacent golf course to provide additional income. In Kentucky they began in a cramped cabin, and later, lost everything when their first motherhouse burned down. In Akron, there were months of oatmeal and applesauce. In most founding groups they didn’t have the education adequate for the ministries they took on. They begged for what they needed.They prayed urgently. They studied as they could. They made do. They made do for God’s sake.
Maya Angelou tells the story of her grandmother, who in times of crisis or need in the family would say, “I will step out on the word of God. I will step out on the word of God.”
This is the pattern of the scripture readings of this week, both the Hebrew scriptures and the Gospels: the story of God reaching out, naming, calling, sending; the story of humans, none of them a whit more virtuous than we are at our best or worst; none of them sure of the journey or the mission. The Word was “Go.” And they stepped out in faith. They stepped out on the Word with essentially nothing but the promise that God was and would be with them. Were they ready? No. Fearless? Probably not.
And here’s the twist, equally applicable to us now with all the unrest that surrounds and unsettles us, and a future we so much want to fathom and prepare for. The Gospel has been entrusted to us. In other words, God is Making Do with us. In Catherine’s words, God is mad, drunk with love, Creator having fallen in love with Creature, a loving so wide and deep that God has become and continues in Christ to become Incarnate in and shine through our limited humanity. And our preaching of the Gospel goes on, amazingly, improbably, because God Makes Do with us, as the letter to the Ephesians assures, with power “infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.“