Central Idea: To think of others, even in a desperate situation is the essence of what we are called to as followers of Christ.
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.
Her name was Enid. Enid. Now there’s a name you don’t hear anymore. But, you may never forget Enid.
The last time I saw Enid at her trailer was at the end of a cold February day. The trailer had seen better days. It was dingy, cluttered and, to be totally honest, still smelled of her dog. She was still recuperating from a fall and was in a fair amount of pain. Her beloved husband, whose name was Ewald (yep, Enid and Ewald!) had long since gone on to his reward. Even that crazed dog of hers, a dog that desperately wanted to rip my leg off, had upped and died. That gray February day was difficult and painful to see her like that and, in truth, I wondered how long she herself would have left on this earth. One month.
I brought her communion, and at one point I stopped and asked her as I always did, what we should pray for. Now if there was a woman who could have complained about life, if there was a woman who could have questioned and even cursed God, if there was a woman who could have wondered why she was in the place that she was, it would have been Enid. Instead, she simply told me this: Father, I would like to pray for all of the homeless people, for there’s a lot of folks who have it worse off than I do. And so that is exactly what we did we prayed for all of the homeless people of the world. And I realized that even with the pungent ammonia smell of dog urine wafting through the stale air, I was in the presence of holiness.
The very next day, I was down at the Scott Trade Center. I had been asked to give the opening invocation and prayer at something called the Sports Trivia Challenge which was to benefit St. Patrick’s Center, an organization designed to help… you guessed it, homeless people. There were several thousand people there, drinking, laughing, preparing for the Trivia night, looking forward to seeing the celebrities and sports figures who were to be highlighted. The last thing they were looking for was a priest who would lead them in prayer. (Believe this or not, and I have a witness to this, I was the opening act for the Rams Cheerleaders and the Hooters girls, so I wasn’t expecting anyone to really be listening to prayer, let alone joining in it. BTW, that may be the first time you ever heard the word Hooters in a homily.) To set it up, and I never shared this with her, I told the story of visiting Enid and how, even though things were tough in her life, when we prayed we prayer for others, others “who have it worse off that I do.”
As soon as I started my talk, a funny thing happened. Starting in the front of the crowd and moving its way back, people started to quiet down and listen, I mean, really listen. By the time I had finished talking about Enid the entire crowd was silent and, dare I say it, prayerful. And so we prayed in that wondrous spirit of selflessness, that wondrous spirit of caring for others, that wondrous spirit of a spunky old woman named Enid.
You might think that a little old childless widowed lady living by herself in a run down old trailer on the outskirts of Beaufort, Missouri might not make much of a difference in this big busy world, but you might be wrong. Enid’s tough and determined style, her selfless attitude has made a difference and will continue to make a difference. She had no children of her own, but every child she interacted with was her grandchild. She would give me a hard time, teasing me, joking with me and I truly appreciated it. She loved good old Ewald, they were truly a pair, but even with his death, she knew that the separation was only temporary. And although materially she really didn’t have very much, she was a truly giving person, willing to serve anybody anywhere.
I am convinced that there are two types of people in this world: the type that grabs and snatches and takes and takes and takes. They complain about not having enough, they whine about the things they do not have, they moan and bellyache and gripe even into their graves. At Borgia, I got a bit frustrated convincing students who have been given everything conceivable to give back a little bit and do Christian service. But some of the kids are so self-centered that they could not be bothered to give of themselves. And then there are the Enid’s of the world. They are the one with every right to grumble, every right to complain, every right to moan and whine and grumble, but instead thank God for all the blessings that they do have and pray and remember those who are a lot worse off.
To live as Enid lived is to live as Christ lived. To bear our burdens patiently. As she lay dying, I sat in ICU with Enid for about two hours. She had no family, so I was it. She opened her eyes, looked up and knew who I was, she was aware that I had given her last rites and was content to fall back into a difficult sleep. Mercy Hospital had an amazing tradition that when a baby is born, they play a little lullaby for a couple of seconds throughout the hospital. As God is my witness this is true. The moment that Enid died, a lullaby played in the hospital, birthing her, if you will, into eternity and welcoming a new life into our world. And thus, the grand procession of life continues.
We have been given a challenge to live our lives in thanksgiving and love, bearing with our hardships and difficulties patiently and with courage. That is not to say that we cannot or will not speak up against injustice, but it is about the attitude we have with life. If we can live this way, not only will we be filled with gladness, but we will truly make a difference in our world, like the difference that this little old lady from Beaufort made.
Rest in peace, Enid and I promise, I promise to continue to pray for those folks who have it a lot worse off than me.