Friday, February 20, 2009

Are you a Brother Ed?

I subscribe to an email thingie called "Heroic Stories" www.heroicstories.com

Sometimes I read the stories and shake my head in amazement and often I cry as I read about the kindness of those "who have" to those "who have not." Often I wish I were more like the people I read about who are willing to give their all unconditionally. I struggle with that.

As a church secretary I often deal with people asking for help. They show up at my office door almost demanding for assistance like it is their "right". Or they call and when I ask how I can reach them they give me a cell phone number. Helloooooooo if you can't afford a loaf of bread, you probably shouldn't be spending money on a cell phone. I will admit that I am always thankful that we have a lady who really cares about those asking for help - I gratefully pass these requests on to her. I am ashamed at how little I seem to care. I do care... I really do... but how do you tell the difference between those who have done their best and yet the system, or worse, their "loved" ones, have stomped on them, from those who have abused all the good that has come their way. Maybe it shouldn't matter. If someone needs help, no matter why, I should give it. But that isn't right, is it? It makes my head hurt!

Well, this one struck a chord with me. I'd like to think I have it in me to be a Brother Ed. I'm not sure I do. Do you? Here is the story:

In August 1980 an ugly scene brought my 13-year marriage to an end. I fled our home with my two children, $5 and nowhere to go except my mother's. Staying there more than a couple nights wasn't an option. The next morning I headed out to find help. The welfare office referred me to an emergency agency that found a small apartment. It was dismal and in a rough area, but I had to make the most of it. A woman there wrote down an address and said to go tell "Brother Ed" she'd sent me. The address was a nondescript warehouse near a Catholic school. Inside,f loor to ceiling held everything imaginable from furniture to clothing. A short, unassuming, thin Caucasian man approached, introduced himself as Brother Ed and asked how he could help. Scared to death about the future, I told him who sent me. Brother Ed led me through the packed maze to a clearing, his "office". He sat me down, offered a soda, and his lunch! He softly asked me totell my story. He listened as it poured out... years of abuse, the fix we were in. He nodded, concerned, asked few questions, and accepted my tears. He offered neither sympathy, nor disapproval. When I felt too wrung out to speak, he went to work. We toured the place as he anticipated our needs, referring to himself in third person, as "Brother Ed". He selected twin beds for my children, a sofa bed for me, sheets, blankets, clothing, towels, washcloths, small kitchen appliances, cooking utensils, everything we'd need -- includingi roning board and iron!With each step I felt more dumbfounded. Was I expected to pay? Nothing was new, but it represented a small fortune to me. I couldn't believe hewas GIVING this stuff to us! Within minutes, a huge pile was gathered near the doors, and Brother Ed explained the furniture would be ready that afternoon. With his next question my heart sank, "Do you have a way to move everything?" As my mind whirled, he said, "You can use Brother Ed's van." I should return at 5 p.m. with helpers, load the van, move everything, then return the van. All matter-of-fact, as if he'd known me his entire life. Overwhelmed, I couldn't believe that he seriously would allow total strangers to disappear with his personal vehicle, possibly never to beheard from again! But that's exactly what happened. I did, of course, return Brother Ed's van along with my eternal gratitude. I later learned Brother Ed was a local Jesuit. The warehouse stored donations for the order's second-hand store. Though his vocation was helping others, I will ever remain indebted to Brother Ed. I do what I can to pay it forward. I've never forgotten his selflessness, and am still deeply touched and grateful, and can only guess how many lives he has touched. I truly believe Brother Ed saved me and my children. I know he saved my spirit.

8 comments:

LadyStyx said...

I wish I could say I had the makings of a Brother Ed, but I simply dont. Ive seen too many in my days working for a Church/school in Louisiana that abused the system to be able to do that.

Although...as for the cell phone issue. Sometimes that's all they have and sometimes it was gotten by a friend just so that person DOES have a contact number. That's the only way my SCSis can contact me...it's because her friend in SC loaned her the phone to use temporarily....the minutes are all paid for so she doesnt need to worry about it. All she needs to do is try and make a majority of the calls after 7pm, when the minutes are free....

Punkn said...

There ya go! I hadn't even thought of that, Styxie. It is so easy to be judgmental. This is something I am definiitely going to work on...

The Wife O Riley said...

That is a beautiful story and a great reminder that we should all keep a little Brother Ed inside of us, even when there isn't much that we can do.

Anonymous said...

It really is hard to know for sure if you are being scammed or not Punkn. But I generally would rather give people the benefit of the doubt rather than hurt someone who really needs it. I figure that the "bad" ones will get what's coming to them eventually. What goes around, comes around.

Tori_z said...

That's a beautiful story.

I don't know about over there, but over here it's actually cheaper to have a mobile phone than a land line. Especially since you can have a mobile phone on "pay as you go" so that if you don't have money to put on it then you just can't make calls (apart from 999 calls) but you can still recieve them. That's what a lot of people do over here who are extremely short of cash.

I know what you mean about those people who abuse the system though. But it's impossible to tell whether a person is one of those people who come crying for help for essentials then will go off and buy an ipod or something, or whether they're someone who genuinely hasn't got two pennies to rub together. You can only know for sure if you've dealt with the person before or actually know the person well. All you can really do is help those you can and hope you're doing the right thing.

AliceKay said...

Nice story. I wish there was a way to look inside someone's soul before you try to help them, to help you sort out the truly needy from the users. Even when you think you're "doing the right thing", it sometimes turns around and bites you in the butt.

ChicagoLady said...

What a wonderful story! I agree with everyone's comments. The only thing I would add would be to pray about it, and remember God knows you are doing your best, and as long as you don't give up, he will see the good you're doing. For those that are undeserving, it's not your fault if they choose to make the wrong choices. I think we all have a little brother Ed in us, we just need to figure out how to bring him to the surface more often.

Karla said...

I wish I could of found a Brother Ed 6 years ago when my world fell apart but there was none to be had. The only agency that tried to help but was unable to because no other agency could be found to help with the rest was the Salvation Army. I will forever be grateful to them for being there.
I'm a lot like you Punkn. I figure if you can afford a cell phone and a home phone, cable, and the other luxuries that the world offers you really don't need help! But what do you do when they ask for help? *shrugs* You do what Jesus would do and help them without judging.