My Will and the New Year

cars driving through the snowIt was a freezing cold night as we left Mass and headed across the street to pick up dinner for our daughter before we headed to our New Year’s Eve party. It was the kind of cold that stops your breath when you venture outside and freezes your eyelashes together in seconds. My husband ran in to the McDonald’s, leaving my daughter and me in the running car to spare us the harsh temperatures outside. Shortly after he left, someone knocked abruptly on my car window. Startled, I rolled down the window and winced as a cold wind whipped across my face. It was a homeless lady. “I’m hungry,” she said. “Buy me something to eat.”

I do admit that I was rather unimpressed. With my daughter watching from the back seat and just having left Mass, I felt cornered into helping this woman. I turned off the car, loaded up my daughter, and begrudgingly headed into the McDonald’s. This lady was a rather demanding sort as she ordered me, “Get me this”¦not like that.” Irritated as I was, I was also very much worried about how she was going to get through this night. We were far from any shelters, and my discussion with the woman only confirmed my fear that my family was all she had. We ended up missing our party and spent the evening finding shelter for this lady. It took us on an adventure completely outside of our plans.

“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will,” St. Ignatius prays. So often it’s easier to say the words than to actually carry them out. I have a very faithful friend who tells me that he desires to desire to say that prayer, but he’s not there yet. My experience with the homeless woman brought my friend’s comment to life for me. We desire to let go of ourselves and follow the will of God, provided it doesn’t interfere too much with our own. But how much more fulfilling it is when we do manage to just let go and follow!

That night, instead of partying to mark the New Year, I, by the grace of God, had the privilege of ensuring one of God’s children was fed and sheltered against the horribly cold winter; perhaps we even saved her life. That sort of fulfillment beats a champagne toast any day, and certainly helps to stoke the desire to desire for the Lord to take and receive my whole will.


  1. I know exactly the feeling of your friend who desires to desire. My speed bump was the St. Francis prayer. I just could not pray it with any truth or conviction. Being the “giver” and not always the “receiver” was a huge step, one that took me years to make. Interestingly enough, the words your friend finds difficult are easy, completely within my comfort zone to pray. Just goes to show each of us is an individual, is traveling their own road to holiness and sainthood.
    In response to your story, I’ll just say that I’ve come to the belief that what the person does with my gift is not really my business. It’s between them and God. The gift given to me (to you and your family) is the opportunity to respond to God “yes”. You know, whatever you shall do unto one of these, you do unto me. Blessings and my best prayers to you and your family.

  2. Great post, Cara. And, good on you for showing us your human side as well as the side that pushed forward to show charity to “the least of these”. Linda, I am the mother of a drug addict. I did not raise him to choose his lifestyle but he did choose to escape his problems by using drugs and alcohol. Before he knew it, he was addicted. This past Easter we went to take him with us to mass. His breath was very heavy with the smell of alcohol. It was very hard to accept that this was the position our family found itself in. After mass and breakfast, we stopped for coffee and a homeless man approached my husband asking for money for an Easter meal. My husband asked him if he was clean and sober. He said yes. My husband asked if he prayed. Again, he said yes. Then my husband gave me the best Easter gift when he asked that man if he would offer prayers for our son who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Suddenly, this man became very quiet and a bit misty and said that he would be proud too. My husband gave him the money for a meal. Maybe he bought dinner. Maybe he bought booze. I don’t know. It is only my job to do what God has called. It isn’t my job to get in the way. That day I was so blessed.

    • Hattie and others,
      Our son is an alcoholic/drug user, and we didn’t raise him to that lifestyle either. We have witnessed his descent into self-destruction and his ever increasing skills at deceit and manipulation. While it may be a feel good moment to hand over cash to someone panhandling, believe me, it is a form of enabling. If people want to do something worthwhile, to be good stewards of whatever they can afford to give, then give to a drop-in shelter, give to the food bank, but don’t give to someone panhandling, because that IS getting in the way.

  3. I learned the hard way by being nice to a man who had a nice apartment and daily dove into the dumpsters all over the area. He needed money and food you see and he was willing to dive for cans and bottles and anything he could sell. I even washed out cans and bottles of my own. I hired him to help me move despite the fact that I had already paid the movers. He shafted me on that one. Then I found out he was going into people’s suites and stealing their food and cans and bottles. He would sit on the step and snivel with his hand out. Intimidated the old ladies who refused to tattle on the creep.
    I countered by giving him the number of a friend of mine who worked with people who need life and job skills and a job too.Then I found out he was dealing drugs. I went on a campaign to get him evicted. He was. So he thought to beat the system by going to rehab. He lasted two weeks. The street must have gotten him as he is dead now.
    He did it to himself.
    A priest said once in homily that a guy never got a dime outta him but the priest did treat him like a friend and gave him time of day. That is the way I do it. I was stupid once. I usually get smart after that. I could cite more and worse examples too.

  4. I agree with Joe’s post wholeheartedly. It was lovely that you, Cara, opened yourself up to the needs of someone you don’t know, without judgement, with kindness and generosity. To say nothing of the beautiful lesson your daughter experienced. God bless.

  5. Few people grow up with the dream of living on the streets and using their smarts to trick middle-class families into helping them buy booze or drugs. And we middle-class families can’t possibly know which homeless people are legitimate and which ones aren’t. But we can be kind. We can let go of the fear of being hoodwinked and leave that in God’s hands. Why should it worry us anyway? Cara, you did a beautiful thing and set a wonderful example for your daughter. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Cara, thank you for sharing this experience with us. Often in stepping outside our comfort zone to help someone else, we are surprised as God blesses us in a very deep way.

  7. They’re pretty smart all right — that tells me they are practised — and I always ask if they know about the various helping agencies such as an emergency shelter etc and whether they have a safe place to stay at night . Rarely do I give them money unless it’s a dollar or less although I will buy them a sandwich (keep the receipt, the clerk told me, as some of them come into the store and bring it back and keep the cash refund).


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