“I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.” Matthew 25:55-56 (CEB)
Have you ever had someone tell you that something you said or did made a big difference to them – had an impact on them? An then you couldn’t even remember it? I have. It takes you by surprise. You had no idea. Wow! It’s hard to decide whether to be embarrassed because you couldn’t remember it, didn’t realize it, or are getting the compliment!
Yet, those who strive to live their faith in the world often don’t even know that they have made a difference because they are following their hearts, their belief in the teachings and example of Jesus, and just being who God intends for them to be. Of course, none of us can do this consistently – except for Jesus, of course.
Most of the time, making a difference is about paying attention to the needs of others. Everyone’s gifts can be used in different ways. Not everyone can be like Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, or Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, most of us aren’t able to do what they did, but we can be grateful that they were able to answer their call to ministry in the ways they did because it had an impact on our lives.
Our calling may be much simpler such as regularly calling a friend whose loved one died. (Don’t forget that their grieving doesn’t stop after a month or even a year! They need support for the long haul!) We might feel a nudge to go visit someone who is homebound, in the hospital, going through a tough time, or who is lonely. Prison ministry isn’t something we all can do, at least not in the prisons with bars and guards, but how many people feel imprisoned by other things: abuse, neglect, isolation, bullying, or anything else that keeps them afraid or hidden from others?
Giving to reputable charitable organizations year round is helpful, as well as volunteering to work at soup kitchens, clothing give-away’s, or any other event that helps others. There is so much out there that offers an opportunity for us to give of ourselves and our talents.
“Doing” or “action” are products of our faith; they are a natural outgrowth of living our faith in the world. We can’t earn our way into heaven, but acting in the ways Jesus has taught us to act witnesses our faith to others. We offer our time, talent, and treasure to build the kingdom of God right here on earth.
Recently, one of my husband’s co-workers went through a really hard time because of medical issues with his only child. He was struggling to make ends meet, and my husband (who has a huge and generous heart) helped him with a few things. When was telling me about the situation, I was able to use some of the resources from one of the churches I serve to help him with gas and food. He keeps thinking he has to pay us back, but we just tell him to pay it forward. We don’t expect repayment because this is part of what we do as people of faith.
The next time someone tells you that you did something that made an impact on them and wonder when it was or what you had done, give a prayer of thanks for the ways God can work through us as we try to live faithfully in this world. Even the smallest gesture can have a great impact on others and help to make this world a better place.