Monday, September 30, 2013

One Person's Good

One of the pleasant things that can happen while you are reading is finding something you had not been seeking.  It happens to me quite frequently.  It can make me feel like a kid who finds a treasure.  Usually, I want to yell, “hey, look at this!”  But normally there is no one around…or worse, I am sitting somewhere with some people and if I yelled that, they would think I am daft or, perhaps, throw me out the door! 

Last evening I hit one of those gems that made me want to yell to someone.  But no one was at home with me.  And the neighbor above me already thinks I am crazy enough…no need to add evidence!  So let me share that tidbit with you. 

It comes from Dorothy Day.  Fewer and fewer people these days know who Dorothy Day was.  Dorothy was a Catholic saint, although she obviously has not been canonized.  I doubt that she will be, but to me she is a saint.  In her early life through the 1920s and 30s, she was active with the communists.  She was an agnostic and, as we would say today, she lived in the “fast lane.”  She had a couple common law marriages.  Then she had a daughter and became intrigued by the Catholic Church. 

Dorothy always had a concern for the marginal and the down-and-out.  She was involved in the beginnings of the Catholic Worker movement.  This movement ran some Catholic Worker homes for folks down on their luck.  In a sense, Dorothy was a saint in a slum! 

You can imagine my delight when my reading surprised me with a few words from Dorothy Day.  She said, “One of the greatest evils is a sense of futility.”  I smile because one does not have a sense that Dorothy ever felt that sense of futility.  But I also wondered, would anyone who has never felt that sense of futility ever consider addressing it?  I rather doubt it.  In fact, I suspect it was because Dorothy knew that sense of futility that she could address it as an “evil.” 

No doubt the following words come from a woman who has lived well beyond that sense of futility and has a firm handle on meaning and purpose in life.  She continues by noting, “Young people say, ‘What good can one person do?  What is the sense of our small effort?’”  That is a daunting question: what good can one person do?  I certainly have asked that question.  It is an easy question when one’s situation seems hopeless…when the task seems too big.  What is the sense of our small effort? 

Those two questions, though, are dangerous because they can become the excuse to do nothing.  They become our rationale for resignation.  And Dorothy Day would have none of that.  I like it when she says, We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.”  True!  

And then, she adds the clincher for me.  “…we can beg for an increase in love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”  The key is “an increase in love in our hearts.”  I want to believe and beg for this, just like Dorothy did. 

I want to believe that somehow God can do this “increasing” that enables me to do this “loving” that can make the one good thing I can do.  And if we all ask for a little “increasing” of the love in our hearts, then perhaps a whole new movement can begin. 

One person’s good: May I do my good this day…and you, too.

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