Today, the faith of my family was tested.
And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was on the first day of the Year of Faith, as we’re Catholic.
I was about to leave my parents’ home, after stopping by to give my Dad his birthday cards. He had appreciated them. I had invited him to the movies, but he wanted to stay home and watch the VP Debate on TV. I was headed out to a group meeting at my parish for “young adults” (18-39) and was excited to hear what they would say about The Year of Faith.
And then, the doorbell rang. Twice.
We weren’t expecting company. It was about 7:05 p.m.
I answered the door, thinking a friend had stopped by to wish him happy birthday.
But it was a man I didn’t recognize.
I thought maybe he was selling something at first.
But he looked upset. Lost.
“Hi, sir,” I said. “Can I help you?”
He had trouble talking, understanding him was hard.
“My mother’s not home,” he said. “I’m scared.”
He was middle-aged.
About then, my Dad came to the door, then Diane.
Together, we listened to him.
“You’re mother’s not home?” I asked. “Where do you live?”
“New Lenox.” (That’s about 30 miles away.)
He was gesturing, babbling.
I began to get scared myself. He didn’t have any ID with an address. What if he couldn’t explain where he needed to go?
“How did you get here?” my Dad asked.
He said he walked.
He said he was afraid to go home.
My Dad mentioned that he couldn’t have walked all that way. Then he asked if he lived at the group home, up the street from us.
The man nodded, gestured some more. We let him in the house.
The man hugged me, sobbing. I held him, told him it was okay.
“I’ll walk you there,” my Dad said. “We’ll make sure you get home.”
I went to get the man a bottle of water. I wanted to offer him food, but since I had worked in residential myself, I wasn’t sure if he had special dietary needs. You never know what kind of allergies people have.
My father set out with the man to walk him to the home, about a block and a half away.
I was worried about my Dad. What if that wasn’t the right place? Then he’d be on foot, alone with him.
I drove ahead and pulled up the home I hoped was the right one.
The door was ajar. I rang the doorbell, and a woman answered the door.
“Are you missing a resident?” I asked. She nodded.
“A man showed up at our door,” I said. “He has trouble talking, we think he might live here. My Dad is on the way with him.”
They were coming up the sidewalk, she spotted them.
“That’s him,” she said. “He’s with us.”
The man walked up the driveway, and she took him to the house. My Dad and I said goodbye to him, and my Dad got in the car.
As we drove away, the man was standing in the driveway, waving.
I wonder, did he stop at any other houses before ours? Did they turn him away?
I can’t imagine how scared he must have been. It was dark. He only had a denim jacket, and it was getting cold.
I told my Dad that I was proud of him. I was so glad he was there. He knew exactly what to do.
He showed me by example what it means to live your faith, to be compassionate.
I wonder, will that man come back to us again?
If he does, I’ll ask him his name. I wish I had. I was nervous, I regret that I didn’t.
But I’ll remember tonight forever.
Today was my Dad’s 70th birthday– and he demonstrated compassion for another.
He didn’t think anything of it, when I talked to him afterward.
“He was scared,” he said. He was so gentle with the man, talking to him quietly.
He reminded me of my Aunt Mary Jane, a Catholic nun. His sister. That’s how she used to be– so gentle.
I think she was with us tonight.