Empowered Helpers

We’re big fans of Mister Rogers in our house. We’ll often watch an episode as a family to wind down at the end of the day. So, in these uncertain and stress-filled times, where everything seems to be a mess, his voice has become a calming sound in the midst of all the noise. One of his most famous quotes speaks well to this moment: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Of course I love this quote, and it is a great quote to use with my five year old when discussing why so many people are walking around with masks on. It would be a mistake however to apply this to adults. It is a great challenge to recognize in times of chaos, we get to choose – choose to be a helper.

This week’s readings challenge us to recognize that we are called to be empowered helpers. If grace is favor, free under-served help that God gives us to respond and cooperate in the divine nature; these readings speak to those in the early church responding. In the first reading we hear of crowds in Samaria responding to Philip and the message he preached and signs he was doing. In the second reading we are encouraged to be ready to share why we have hope, and to do it with “gentleness and reverence.” In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that God will give them an Advocate to journey with them and they will not be left alone. In all these readings there is the message that we are called to be empowered. Called to respond to God’s grace. Called to serve.

As I have reflected on how all this applies to Nazareth Farm, I am struck and moved by my experience of the Farm. By living out the cornerstones, the Farm seeks to be an empowered helper. To not leave people alone, but to listen to their need and serve them. To not give in to a “throwaway” culture, but to live in simplicity and leave a good footprint. To intentionally live in community, and to strengthen community, and after forty years there is great proof of this. And to take time in giving thanks in prayer and inviting the Advocate to constantly be known through shared prayer. Nazareth Farm and the people connected to it have responded to be empowered helpers.

I often find myself reflecting on the experiences that I have had at the Farm and am blown away at all of the moments where disciples responded to grace. I think of fixing a roof on an extremely hot day and being astounded by the young men who carried heavy shingles up and down ladders without complaint (it was an all-male group that day, ladies can definitely do the same!) I think of all the homeowners I have encountered and how so often they served me by sharing a story, lunch, or a cold juice while we were there to serve them. I think of the joy of seeing the community and coming around that bend and being “welcomed home.” Nazareth Farm is a great blueprint and witness of how to live life as a helper. It isn’t that bucket showers are radical, in fact the opposite, but it is in the response and cooperation with grace that the Farm has been able to radically live out its mission to be a helper. As we move towards Pentecost, how can we respond and cooperate with grace to embrace the blueprint and witness that the Farm has provided, and live our daily life as empowered helpers?

By Michael O’Connell, current board member and chaperone