BY REV. PAUL KELLY - ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH
"Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, so you do unto me."
With these words from Matthew chapter 25, Christians are reminded of the obligation to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in our midst. Many people choose to do this by supporting organizations dedicated to advancing human dignity and eliminating poverty. One such organization that I have supported for many years is Unbound out of Kansas City. Unbound helps support over 300,000 children around the world by connecting them with sponsors who make monthly contributions.
In early June, I went on an awareness trip to Guatemala with 25 other Unbound sponsors from all over the United States. The purpose of the trip was to meet our sponsored children, and to see firsthand the impact that sponsorship was making in the lives of the children and families who receive help.
Each day we would load up in a bus and travel to small villages where sponsored children and their families would greet us and put on a program for us as a way of thanking us for our support. We would be thanked over and over again as a host of different people would step to the microphone to offer their gratitude to the point that it seemed excessive. After all, it wasn't all that much of a sacrifice for us sponsors, we simply wrote a check each month from our abundance. It was the families we supported who were making far greater sacrifices. They had none of the things we take for granted, such as indoor plumbing, air conditioning, internet, running water, good highways, well-furnished homes, new schools, privately owned cars, clothes for every occasion, etc. Yet in many ways they taught us some important lessons in life.
The children and parents always had smiles on their faces. They were able to find joy in the simplest things in life — a shared meal, a smile from a stranger, the giving of a simple gift, simply being able to go to school.
They also taught us the importance of saying thank you. One of the founders of Unbound, Bob Hentzen, used to say: "Allow the poor to say thank you. Let them say it again and again. You need to receive their thanks with humility." He believed it was an essential part of building up their human dignity.
The poor’s need to say thanks was a reminder to me of the Christian's need to say thanks to the Lord. Although God has no need of our praise, He allows us to say thanks over and over again for our own good.