There is an old saying about gift-giving, that “it is the thought that counts.” In a similar way, the assistance, or gifts, that we offer to the neighbor must be more than “appeals from below,” but instead gifts of true love, of putting the needs of another before our own.
As so often is the case, Blessed Frédéric offers us a wonderful example. On New Year’s Day of 1852, Frédéric was unable to relax and enjoy the day with his family, unable even to eat the candies his beloved daughter Marie offered him. He couldn’t stop thinking of the young family that had sold their chest of drawers, the young mother’s treasured family heirloom, so that they could pay other bills.
When he told his wife Amélie of his desire to bring them the chest as a gift, she reminded him that the husband, suffering some health issues, might not be able to work in coming weeks, and it would be more practical to give them the money that would have purchased the chest in smaller amount in coming weeks.
Although he first agreed that this was indeed practical, he remained unconsoled, explaining to Amélie that even a fraction of what they’d spent on their own amusement and gifts could have brought true joy to that poor family. She agreed, and urged him to go.
Frédéric left his home, purchased the family’s chest, and along with a porter he’d brought with him, delivered it to them. When he returned home, all sadness had left him; his face was glowing with his own joy.
When we make our home visits, we often help the neighbor to prioritize needs, so that we can care for the most urgent of them first. Like Frédéric, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the most urgent needs are not always material; that when we are refreshed by joy and by love, our burdens become lighter.
We are called to form relationships based on trust and friendship with the neighbors we serve; not coldly assess the books, but to seek their good, even before our own. In doing so, we will receive in joy exactly what we give.
How can I bring not just assistance, but joy to the neighbor?