Defending Free Speech in Canandaigua and Ontario County... and New York State. The USA, too. Ummm, the World also. Heck, the Universe.
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- Jeff Marinelli
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Noah’s Blessing Box - Christmas Update December 2017 - The Almsgivers of Canandaigua
It’s plenty cold out now. This time of year is tough enough for folks who are short of cash, but it’s a whole lot worse if you’re homeless. Blessings, both incoming and outgoing, are continuing at a record pace. Some of the stuff that Michael and I put in the box goes out within the hour. Gone.
The scarf tree in front of our house sees regular use too. We add more scarves, hats and gloves every day. Handwarmers and footwarmers also go as soon as we replenish them. Our chance to meet new friends is increasing daily, too… many of the ladies who make scarves and hats like to hand-deliver their stuff, and we like to say thanks! I’m surrounded by people who are setting examples.
A lady sends Suzanne a message; her family has decided not to exchange gifts this year. Instead, each family member is going to choose a charity and make a donation. As part of their celebration, each person will do a presentation to their family about the cause that they selected.
She had picked Noah’s Blessing Box.
She wanted to stop by and deliver her generous gift in person, and get a photo with us in front of the box. We are delighted to help her. We set a date, and she came with her sister. I show them the box, and explain how we run things. We take a photo, and wish each other Merry Christmas. I think this is a very cool tradition in the making.
A knock on the door comes early one evening. It’s a husband and wife team. They had sold their home, and were downsizing. They were going to do stockings for each other, but no big expensive gifts.
They had wanted to make a donation to Noah’s Blessing Box for Christmas instead.
We chatted for a bit, and they gave us a good and valuable variety of gift cards from local businesses to help folks. I assured them that their gifts would absolutely end up where they would help someone. We exchanged Christmas well wishes also.
A lady is just leaving the front door, after dropping off several bags of stuff that I’m grateful to get. She looks over her shoulder and says ‘There’s a gentleman out there who’s waiting to talk to you.’
He’s standing on the sidewalk looking up at the house. The lady leaves, and I tell him ‘Come on up here’, so he walks up the steps and stands on the porch. ‘How you doing today?, I ask him. ‘What’s your name?’
He tells me his name is Tony. He has tremors in his hands, and speaks in a slow, deliberate manner.
‘C’mon in the house, Tony,’ I tell him, ‘It’s a little cold outside’.
He joins us in our entryway, and I ask him, ‘What can I do for you today?’
‘I need your address’, he answers. ‘I’d like to send a donation, and we need to mail a check.’
He explains that he’s a veteran. He takes his wallet out, and it’s crammed with business cards and little pieces of paper. He drops one of his gloves on the floor because his hands shake. He finds his VA ID card and lets me see it. I gravely examine it with respect.
He explains that ‘I’ve come shopping several times at the box.’ I tell him ‘You just take whatever you need and if there’s something you want and you don’t see it, I want you to knock on the door. If we have it, we’ll give it to you.’ He says he’ll do that.
Suzanne asks him: ‘Are you cold? We have lots of scarves on the tree if you need one.’ He tells us he’s fine, but that he took two scarves last week for his friends if that’s OK.
We assure him that it is. He tells me in an aside that he donated money to the Salvation Army last month.
Suzanne and I both thank him and tell him Merry Christmas. I tell him to be sure to come back.
I went out one morning last week to restock, and someone had left five dollars in the box. There is a path in the snow now, a wide path, from the street to Noah’s Blessing Box.
Many parents have stopped by to donate, and they bring their children. They explain about sharing, and about helping people, and why it’s important. Suzanne talked to one little boy who donated with his mom and asked him how it made him feel. He looked up at her and said ‘I feel good!’
The Almsgivers of Canandaigua
I’m sure some people saw this in the title of this update and wondered ‘What’s he babbling about now?’ I personally think a lot about the actions and reactions of people who stop by the box because I see them all the time. Almsgiving, or helping others by your own actions, has been around for centuries. I realized that Almsgivers were coming to the box, and to our home, 24 hours a day to help people, and be blessed themselves. That’s right, Almsgivers. Here in Canandaigua.
The Vatican, for instance, has had an Office of the Almoner since the 1200’s. The Almoner takes orders directly from the Pope, and is so important that he’s one of the few Vatican officials that continues in office if the Pope dies.
When someone sets an example, and you see it, you should try to follow it. I will personally follow the examples of the folks I wrote about. I saw them help people so I’ll try to do that, too.
The Vatican’s almoner, has, in later years, become more of a ceremonial position.
That changed immediately when Francis came to serve. The Papal Almoner is a Polish archbishop named Konrad Krajewski. Under the pope’s authority, he’s been responsible for the installation of showers, a medical center, a barbershop and a laundromat near the Vatican, as well as other initiatives on behalf of the poor, including a new dormitory.
“Sell your desk; you don’t need it,” Pope Francis told him at the time. “Don’t sit and wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor.”
At the entrance to the almoner’s offices is a statue of Jesus portrayed as a homeless man lying on a bench. At his feet, there is room for anyone who wishes to sit down. There the poor often come and wait their turn to receive help and support from the papal almoner. Anyone can come knocking and many, when they do, lay their hand on the feet of Jesus, as if asking for his help and protection.
“Our services remain open all summer,” Archbishop Krajewski explained. “The barber shop, the showers near the colonnade of St. Peter’s, the medical facility, the public bathrooms. People need these services every day of the year, and at all hours of the day. We never close.”
Pope Francis had told the Archbishop ‘You will be my soul on the street’. The Pope, who is 81 years old, will dress as a regular priest and sneak out of the Vatican at night and go with his almoner to find and feed the homeless.
The Pope’s almoner moved out of his apartment in the Vatican and sleeps on a couch in his office so that a Syrian refugee family, who were expecting a baby, would have a place to live. Archbishop Krajewski says he is already experiencing the blessings: “The lovely thing is that for the first time in my home, a beautiful little girl was born. And I confess, I feel a bit like a grandfather, an uncle. It is life that is continuing, a gift of God.”
The pope also told him that the papal charity account was not a savings account. “The pope told me there shouldn’t be any money in the almony’s bank account,” he said. “He said I shouldn’t hold onto it or invest it, I should spend it. He asks me often if I need more money, and he tells me I have the best job of all.”
The best job of all. I hold that position here, now.
I have the best job in Canandaigua.
Merry Christmas, Friends.
Don't blame me! I voted for Bernie!
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