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    a bed in an attic room

    Christ’s Room

    Peter Maurin said every home that can should have a Christ Room for ambassadors of Jesus who might come knocking. Ours has never been empty for long.

    By Jeffrey Wald

    February 19, 2024
    • Vera Calderon

      I like what you said about a room for Christ, VERY MUCH! I also think using that special room could be for us, to enter it, read God's Holy Word and to take our list of those we pray for.

    • Margaret Crandall

      We have a sharing house - only 1 mi from the Bruderhof house in our town. A number of Bruderhof folks have stayed there across 12 yrs - as well as folks from China, Mexico, Africa, Scotland Plus folks needing a place near a major hospital nearby. We don’t allow payment. It’s been interesting - the greatest damage has been caused by the most theologically educated….without apology. But the house is God’s & God will sort it out.

    • Camille Ellis

      This is a lovely story. Meeting the needs of the vulnerable is truly Christ-like. "Whatsoever you do to least of my brothers, that you do onto me". God bless you and your family.

    • Joyce Baxter

      Beautiful story. This was a great way to start my day. Thank you.

    • Theresa (Terry) Skelley

      I needed to read this today. Three years ago I opened my guest bedroom to someone in my neighborhood who would otherwise be sleeping in his car. His situation has not appreciably changed, except he no longer has the car, and he's a dad (again), at age 50+. So now the room, and my basement, have become spaces to accommodate his young children at various times (they go home every night and sleep with their mom's house). In more affluent circles, he would be called a stay-at-home dad, and a good one, but that doesn't help him financially. In exchange for the space, he maintains my 100-year-old home with lots of character (original fireplaces) and lots to maintain. It's a pretty fair trade, although my grown kids have their reservations, understandably so. But it seems to work. Today's Mass scriptures were about Christ separating the sheep from the goats at the end of time; at the end, I think we'll both be sheep! All because of a guest-"Christ' room". Terry Skelley

    • Julian Whitney

      Many homes in the UK (my country of birth) still set a place at the table for a family member who has passed on. “You never know who might drop by in need of a bite.” said one friend, who always manages to magic extra spoonfuls of each dish. Here in Japan (where I live) my mother-in-law places a serving of every meal at the family shrine for her late-husband. That is often enjoyed by an unexpected, but most welcome visitor. Not quite a room, yet still a place of welcome and nourishment.

    I live in a 113-year-old house in Saint Paul, Minnesota. There’s much to love about it. The first-floor ceilings are nearly ten feet high. The woodwork is amazing. The fireplace and mantel are the centerpiece of the house. You feel part of history.

    There’s also much not to love. The water pressure is terrible. The radiant heat is discriminatory, overwhelming some rooms, shunning others entirely. There are cracks everywhere through which critters love to crawl or fly.

    Yes, my house has character in spades. And no room has more character than the room at the top of the stairs. It’s clearly the creation of a do-it-yourselfer. The ceilings on either side slope excessively, so there is only about a foot-wide path down the middle on which I can stand and walk (I’m six feet tall). There is no closet and barely enough room for a bed. The room is so oddly shaped that the do-it-yourselfer had to cut off the top right corner of the door at an angle to fit it in the makeshift doorframe. And yet it has probably been our most important room.

    At first, it served my wife and me as our bedroom. On day two or three, I was hovering in that space between wake and sleep when I suddenly felt something hovering above my head. Resisting the urge to duck under my covers, I mustered all my courage, stood up, ran outside to get my fishing net, came back in, and boldly captured the bat, without waking my wife.

    a bed in an attic room

    Photograph by Adrian Sherratt / Alamy Stock Photo

    A few months later, we moved out of the room, needing the space for foster care. One of our first foster children spent a couple of months in the room. When that little guy went home to spend Christmas with his dad, the room became occupied by two brothers. They came to us on Christmas Eve. The social worker asked if there was any room at the inn. Well, OK, not literally, but how could we say no? As is always the case with foster care, you never quite know what you’re saying yes to. Maybe a day. Maybe a year. Maybe a lifetime.

    We adopted those Christmas Eve brothers just under a year later. By that time, they’d moved out of the room at the top of the stairs.

    I don’t quite remember what the room became at that point. The guest bedroom, I think.

    I do remember that a chipmunk got into the room. My three oldest sons bravely tried to catch it with their bare hands. It didn’t work. Instead, the chipmunk almost caught my second eldest, running up his back under his shirt. But my son got the last laugh. We set a rat trap in the room with some peanut butter. Within five minutes, the intruder was a goner.

    When the Covid pandemic hit, the room became my office. I attended criminal court hearings, taught a criminal procedure law school class, and wrote dozens of briefs from that little space, sweating in the summer, bundled in a jacket in the winter.

    After we finished our basement office, the room at the top of the stairs became empty again. But not for long.

    Soon, a pregnant teen came knocking. After some unresolved conflict with her mother, she needed a place to stay. With five boys of our own, plus a two-year-old foster girl staying with us, we didn’t have much to offer. But we did have the room at the top of the stairs. She moved in. I can’t say her time with us was blissful. She hovered in that space between ecstasy and despair, keeping her baby and aborting him, marrying her teen lover and dumping him. I thought having boys was tough; I was not prepared for a teenage girl. She stayed with us several months, and then moved into a home for expecting mothers just before Christmas. I thought we’d done our good deed for the year.

    Then another teen mom came knocking on Christmas Eve. Similar situation. Conflict with mom. Needed a place to stay. And the room at the top of the stairs was still set up and available, so in she moved. She only stayed with us a couple days, then went back home.

    I figured it was time to give the room a little break – and to be honest, give myself a break.

    My wife had other ideas.

    In early February, the father of the second teen mom’s child became homeless. Kicked out of his government housing for smoking weed. No surprise there. He was couch hopping. My wife said we should offer him the room. I said we should offer him ten bucks and some advice: stop smoking dope. Not surprisingly, my wife won out.

    Christ comes to us needy, and in doing so, paradoxically reveals our own neediness, our longing for forgiveness, love, and redemption. 

    He stayed with us four months. We had to endure some unpleasantries. He crashed our car into our basketball hoop. The hoop magically stayed upright through the winter, held aloft by ice and snow, but as soon as warmer spring weather came it toppled. We worried that the house would be set aflame, what with his space heaters running constantly, the room’s windows simultaneously open. Were the windows open because the room was so small it overheated quickly and he needed equilibrium: blasting hot air from the space heaters, receiving a steady influx of frozen air from the window? Our boys were often awakened in the middle of the night by obscene rap lyrics, our guest having set his sights on becoming a famous musician. The next day he’d come downstairs thrilled to share his new recordings with my wife and me.

    The room sits empty again. Or officially empty. Unofficially, it often lodges one or the other of our children who has fled his room after another spat with a brother. Will it remain empty? I doubt it. My wife already has plans for it. There’s another single mom with one kid and another on the way. And there’s always the teen rap star; he’s homeless again, still smoking dope, still struggling to hold down a job, but now a father trying to learn to be the father he never had.

    Peter Maurin preached that every church should have a house of hospitality, and every home that can should have a “Christ Room,” where the ambassadors of Jesus can be housed, fed, clothed, and offered a bit of dignity. But more importantly, where they can be Christ to us.

    As my parish priest recently reminded me, Christ can be inconvenient. He comes to us hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned. In other words, he comes to us needy. And in doing so, he paradoxically reveals our own neediness, our lack of self-sufficiency, our longing for forgiveness, love, and redemption.

    As much as I’d like to think that I’ve been Christlike toward those who have resided in the room at the top of the stairs, the truth is they’ve shown Christ to me. I’ve glimpsed it when those teen moms heroically said yes to life and selflessly loved their newborns. I’ve seen it in those Christmas Eve brothers who, though their trauma is not behind them, are living witnesses of resurrection. I’ve seen it in our dope-smoking resident’s laughter and smile, his childlike simplicity and friendship with our young boys, and his desire for family.

    I never intended the room at the top of the stairs to be a Christ Room. I struggle to dignify it by even calling it a room. Cave seems more appropriate. But then again, the king of kings was born in a cave. Was buried in a cave. And rose from the dead in a cave. Maybe a room’s dignity is not so much what it looks like but who occupies it.

    The room at the top of the stairs has been occupied by Christ again and again. Of that fact I’m increasingly certain.

    Contributed By Jeff Wald Jeffrey Wald

    Jeffrey Wald is an attorney, husband, and father.

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