Beautiful Christmas decorations covered the walls of the elementary school, a welcome relief after a full day of work and then the long drive. My co-worker and I had come to a parents' resource night to perform dental screenings for the children of the school. The atmosphere was relaxed; all the other "vendors" were enjoying the children, and had lots of fun and educational opportunities for the kids and their parents. I loved the chance to connect with each child, finding out about their best part of school, sports, or which decoration they had made. As I often encounter in my work, there were situations that really made me sad: children with severely broken down teeth, or even abscesses. The good thing was that we could give the parents advice and addresses of local clinics where they could take their children.
All of this changed with one encounter that has left an indelible impression on me, and really made me think again about Advent, Christmas, and the purpose of each life on earth. A careworn mother with three children stepped up to our table. While my co-worker helped the mother through the paperwork, I examined the children's teeth, marking down areas that would need further dental care. Again, these children needed immediate dental intervention, and I wondered sadly to myself, how this is possible in 21st century USA? The children were so beautiful, excitedly telling me all about school; the youngest with pride pointing to the pretty decoration she had made.
When I gave the Mother details of the most immediate concerns for her children, she burst into tears. It was this moment that I will not forget. So tangible was her despair, I felt as if someone had socked me in the stomach. Here was a woman facing multiple obstacles that she found daunting: no health insurance, lack of education, house eviction and more. I could not help thinking, how can I help alleviate some of this misery? Not only for this mother, but for the many others I meet daily who are sad, depressed, struggling and so very lonely.
Even though we could listen, encourage, and find someone who could help this mother through the insurance process; I could not forget her face and her cry, which is echoed in so many others. Often when faced with incidents like this I feel so helpless, and wonder what I can do. What came to my mind then, and many times since, are these words from Alfred Delp, which point out that it is our task to encourage those we meet, and pass on the message of hope from the Angels that is for all people.
...so the first thing we must do, if we want to be alive, is to believe in the golden seed of God that the angels have scattered throughout time, and still offer today, to every open heart. The second is to walk through these dark times as an announcing messenger oneself-to carry and spread the angel's message. So many need their courage strengthened; so many are in despair and in need of consolation; there is so much harshness that needs a gentle hand and an illuminating word; so much loneliness crying out for a word of release; so much loss and pain in search of inner meaning. But God's messengers know that this is not all: they know of the blessing that the Lord has cast like seed into these hours of history.