Dear God above and the powers that be,
When I was born to a Jewish father and Catholic mother, I was baptized by the same Jesuit Priest that married my parents- the same man that was a professor to my mother at the Jesuit university where she obtained her undergrad degree. I went to CCD on Monday nights and had my First Holy Communion. I was confirmed. I went to services as often as I could in college- yes, Sunday mornings when I was not too hung over or scheduled for the inevitable 12 hour work shift, I prayed in a house of God. Sometimes I prayed for the world to stop spinning, but often it was for inner peace.
Inner peace didn’t come for many years, and still I knew He heard me.
When I found out I was pregnant I knew I would raise my daughter in the Church. I knew I would teach her all of the stories I knew and asked my Mom for a book full of children’s Bible stories before she was born. I read to her in the womb, I prayed she would be OK, that she would be born without intervention, that she would suffer no physical pain and that she would know all of the happiness a human deserved- and yet I went through 36 hours of labor which ended in the need for medication, my daughter has a form of dwarfism, and that led to her needing surgery in her first year of life. But I know He hears me. I know she is going to be OK.
Coming from a mixed background, I celebrate religion, tolerance, direction. I believe that there is a reason we are here, somewhere we all meet again and that community is wonderful for the spirit. I believe all this through the death of my brother, my 18 year old cousin, my Dad and all but one of my grandparents before my 14th birthday.
I attend Church as often as I can, but I pray daily. Like all those years ago, sometimes it’s for frivolous things, like a few dollars at the bottom of my purse for gas or for a second wind to get me through the day, and other times it’s for Addie to not need surgery or for my uncle to beat a disease that is stripping him of life. I have read the Bible in its entirety and I use the story of the Lord as a guide to living life well, not as fact- and yet I still believe there must be someone. Something.
I don’t think of myself as devout, my family is not well known in our parish (Dave only attends when there is a baptism, death or holiday), I don’t post quotes from the Old or New Testament and sometimes I get my stories mixed up. In my life I have been angry at God, not gone to church but a few times in a year and even said through tears, “You must hate me because no Savior puts one person through this much in life.” But I have never given up on Him. I’ve never thought that there was a reason to not believe in something more being out there. And so I was hurt when I opened my mailbox to letter after letter begging me for money with multiple weekly envelopes, this last one implying that my absence is why I have not donated. You think the only way to account for my presence is my money? The only way to have faith is by attending mass? Does He not hear me outside of the walls of his place of worship?
I ask you: He, my Father, is He only there for me when I see him? When He answers a prayer? When He offers me something for my years of prayer and belief? No. He is there for me, even the years I believe him to be completely silent.
Let me tell you what I want from you. I want a weekly stipend for my heat, water and oil. I need a pretty decoration crew to put up the holiday lights and poinsettias we aren’t doing this year to save money. I need a one time lump sum donation to help kick my year off right. I would also accept electronic payments… want my email? You can Paypal me! I want to have earned income tax-free, too.
But do you know what I need?
I need your love and support. I need the same thing I have been offering you for 29 years. I need the power of Him. I need Him to hear me. And I need the people who lead me to judge me not by my wallet, but by my actions.
Enclosed in the envelope you just sent me is $12. It’s what I have in my wallet. It isn’t much, but for me, it would be for a few days of produce. I want you to have it, because clearly you need it- I can tell by the postage and paper you’re spending money on sending me letters asking me for money. But you will get no more from me in 2013… and I hope our relationship is renewed in 2014. I hope you begin to realize that people aren’t forgetting about their local parish. They don’t forget Him. What we, the common folk, forgo is ourselves. I don’t turn the heat up past 60 or take long hot showers. I don’t get haircuts, shoes or new contacts. I don’t go to the doctor or drive to places that I could walk to, to save money. I plead with my insurance company, the same as you beg me, to cover my bills- only in this house, our surplus was gone a year ago. There isn’t anything to have. We eat everyday, we have heat and lights. We pay taxes, and more taxes. I donate to multiple non-profits, I fund-raise for a few others. I volunteer in my community and I give to the food bank. I give to my community and sometimes, frankly, it’s not all about you.
When a community member suddenly stops donating their usual $10 a week (which is what I have given in the past), asking them if they are well in a personal manner might be better than a form letter stating you have recognized my absence in Church.
No, you haven’t.
Your finance department has recognized me not donating.
You didn’t ask if I had a child who demanded extra care. You didn’t ask if that care was being paid for by the insurance we already pay for. You didn’t ask if I didn’t go back to work to provide therapies for my child. You didn’t ask what you could do to support me, you asked why I was not supporting you. You accused me of not supporting you.
That is not how support works. Support is not synonymous with money- it’s love. It’s being there. It’s the mornings I have proof there is something to believe in because there is no way my baby girl isn’t an angel on Earth. It’s the nights I spend praying with her before bed:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
Pray the Lord my soul to keep.
Watch me through the long long night.
And wake me with the sunshine bright.
God bless this baby.
Just the same as my Mother did with me.
Just because I do not see Him does not mean He is not there. Perhaps the only moments I have to cultivate my marriage, eat a hot meal, or shower is on a Sunday morning- do not think because you don’t see me I am not there. I thank Him- whoever He is- be the Messiah, Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, God, Jehovah (you get it)- everyday. I know there is a plan, I just hope that plan isn’t to alienate those that cannot afford to “support” each week, but who are still deserving, loving members of your Church.
I ask you to love those who love you as best they can,