That Easter feeling
We are all called to discipleship, to service, and it is in giving that we receive blessing and new life
By Kathy VanLoon
"Guess what I did at school today, Oma!" my granddaughter said, her voice filled with a joy she couldn't wait to share with me. "I did jump rope for the Heart and Stroke Foundation."
"Did you!" I said, "Isn't that great! Tell me all about it, Lauren."
We were 2,000 miles apart and having one of our frequent telephone chats (I have yet to overcome my technical intimidation to set up the webcam I got as a Christmas gift). But I know she chose to tell me about her jump rope day because taking part in it had made her feel happy.
She explained that the gym was filled with students from all the grades. Each child had paid two dollars to jump rope. I tried to imagine the noise and the laughter and the effort, as everyone was encouraged by the presence of the others, yet tried to keep jumping smoothly without hitting another person's rope.
I asked her if she understood why she did it. "Yes, Oma, to help people who get strokes and heart attacks, and stuff like that" she said, rushing through those last four words, trying to sound cool and older than her seven years.
It was coincidental that Lauren should mention this fundraising activity during our conversation that day. I was working on this issue of the magazine and had just put the finishing touches on a feature about the fundraising efforts of students at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Canmore, Alberta. Lynette Brossart, the teacher coordinating the school's "mission club," gathered the students to talk about their experience of doing these projects to help the needy and sent their quotes and some photos to me.
"It brings our school closer together, in generosity, compassion, and fellowship," Grade 10 student Sarah Fergusson said.
Mate MacKenzie, a Grade Five student said, "I know that God wants me to help the poor." Mate also talked about the effect of these activities on the other students: "I think it is nice to do these kinds of projects because it helps people get closer to God and it makes them feel good. I even noticed a change in people's behavior. The people who worked on the project became more respectful."
Grade Three student Micah Webb said simply, "I love the poor people; that's mainly why I do it!"
Part of this feature includes a visit to the school by Scarboro missioners Ray and Beverley Vantomme who gave a presentation on mission in Malawi. When Beverley wrote us about Our Lady of the Snows she described it as a "special school that is really living mission...They are active in their service work all over the world." Beverley and Ray from Camrose, Alberta received a warm welcome from everyone. "Even the youngest students," she said, "had profound questions: 'Isn't it hard to live in Malawi where people are so poor? Don't you feel sad?'" This was from a little girl in Grade Two.
Sometimes the enormity of the problems we face as a society and as a global community are so great, we tend to feel defeated, hopeless, ineffective, powerless. It is only when we pray and take action along with others that our hearts again take flight. There is no shortage of issues and opportunities in which to get involved. We are motivated to help others out of a sense of compassion and justice, but in helping others we find that we also help ourselves. Blessings sent out have a way of coming back to us. As we give of our time, money, energies and talents, we are lifted up, given new life. This is an Easter message.
My granddaughter's life of service outside of her family has just begun. May she continue to learn that it is a blessed giving. As she grows older, may she continue to respond to the cry of those in need. May she continue to learn that by giving herself to others, she too will receive peace and new life. For this, I will be forever grateful.