He sat down opposite the treasury and NOTICED the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
The Gospel of Mark 12:41-44
On 13 September 2018, excessive pressure in natural gas lines owned by Columbia Gas caused a series of explosions and fires in as many as 40 homes, with over 80 individual fires, in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. There was much news coverage in the days that followed about the tragedies and loss. Then we heard about mammoth plans set in motion to replace the 45 miles of pipeline that had been damaged. My first reaction was to try to help in some way, I donated to different funds, checked in on friends, cooked for those whom I thought could use it, and then was done. I moved onto other things. Now, two months afterward, any information about this continuing story can be found on the back page of the newspaper, if that. It is no longer front page news. I easily slipped back into my “busy” life and among all of the news I hear, I placed the pipeline news with all of the other news. At the beginning of his sermon on 11 November 2018,Thomas said of himself with regards to the recent spate of horrific news, “I am desensitized.” I am desensitized too. But it is getting cold and many are still without heat.
My youngest daughter Gracie attends Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA. I drive her to and from school. During the week, I leave my beautiful office in Winchester in the afternoon and drive up to Lawrence to pick her up. I drive through downtown Lawrence and then cut through the city again by another route to get home to Andover. Lawrence is a very different place than Andover, as is any city. There are many apartments and multi-family houses and in the warm weather, Gracie and I see families sitting outside on the city sidewalks socializing with neighbors. I know that many are beginning to seek other housing. I know this because on our drive home, Gracie and I drive by a park in the city and, as the days have gone by, the park has been slowly populated by camping trailers to house those with no heat.
Hundreds of camping trailers have been brought in and there is now row upon row of them in several places in the city. As the weeks have gone by, the number of families living in them has increased. There is fencing around the park for security. It is not only cold, but it has also been raining a lot and the park is muddy. In the morning as I drive by this park, I see moms and dads coming out of their trailers with their children and they trudge through the mud to the sidewalk to wait for the school bus. Such a normal family scene but this is in a makeshift campground in a park in a city, a few miles from my house. I NOTICE.
Many people and agencies have stepped in to help these families. Perhaps these angels have done so out of thankfulness for what they have. For me, I am thankful for what I have, but this is not what drives me to respond to all of this, but I pray that perhaps someday it will. I think for me right now when I notice, my response is one of empathy. When I see a mother climb out of a trailer in the morning with her little girl, hurrying her along because she is late for the bus, strapping a pink backpack onto her daughter, I can relate to this. I imagine what it was like to spend the night crammed in with other families in other trailers and know that there but for the grace of God go I. Thanksgiving is this week and these families will not be spending it in their homes.
The flashy news is gone and I have witnessed how these people are living into their reality. I am grateful that my daughter and I see how the rest of the story is unfolding away from the news cameras. The hard work of living on is not glamorous. I pray that through this experience, I will notice others who are in need, who are suffering, who are mourning, and I pray that I will not be too busy.
I pray that I will NOTICE THEM – everywhere.