Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, February 25, 2018

cram halfEveryday Holiness

When people ask what I write about in my newspaper column, I say it’s about living the Gospel in everyday life. Recently, I was privileged to observe such living faith in action.

My friend Kevin works hard to support his family. His wife is partially disabled and does not earn much income. They have two kids in college and a third who will enter college in the fall. Needless to say, money is tight.

Last year, Kevin’s nephew Jeremy returned from two tours of duty in Afghanistan suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Jeremy settled in Chicago, got a job, and tried to return to normal life.

The problem was that life wasn’t normal. Jeremy had flashbacks and nightmares. He had trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, trouble with relationships. He panicked at the rumble of trains and the crash of thunder.

Jeremy’s commanding officer stayed in touch with the guys in his unit, and it didn’t take long for the CO to recognize Jeremy’s PTSD. With a little encouragement, Jeremy sought help, naively expecting a quick return to normal.

It didn’t happen. PTSD can take a long time to heal.

During this period in his life, Jeremy occasionally visited his aunt and uncle on their small New England farm. Jeremy loved the serenity, the bucolic setting, the refuge from city life.

One day during a particularly difficult time, Jeremy called his Uncle Kevin to ask if he could visit. “I really need to get out of the city for a week or two,” Jeremy explained. Unspoken was the need to be away from the noise, but Kevin understood.

“We’d love to have you here!” Kevin replied. “You are always welcome.”

Jeremy stammered for words. “Uncle Kevin, I don’t know if I have enough money to make the trip . . .”  His voice trailed off.

Kevin immediately recognized the problem. “We may be able to help with some of the expense,” Kevin assured his nephew. “How much do you think it will cost to get here and back?”

Jeremy was silent for a moment as he did the calculation. “About $250,” he said.

“Okay,” said his uncle, “let me talk it over with Aunt Jean, and I’ll call you tomorrow.”

As soon as he got off the phone, Kevin began to pray. “How can we best help him, Lord?” he asked his heavenly Father. “We have limited resources and so many expenses. What should we do?”

A quiet voice reminded him to care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger. He was pretty sure this included Jeremy.

That evening, Kevin and his wife sat down to discuss the matter. There were so many needs around them, and giving money to Jeremy meant the money was not available for something else.

Again Kevin heard the still, small voice: Remember the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

Kevin and Jean decided to continue praying about it.

At work the next day, Kevin was called into the boss’s office. To his astonishment, Kevin was given a bonus. He’d never received a bonus before.

That evening he shared the good news with Jean. “What are you going to do with the money?” she asked. “I have no idea,” Kevin replied honestly.

“Well, how much is the bonus?” she continued. “Two hundred and fifty dollars,” he stated. And then it dawned on him. “I think we have our answer for Jeremy.”

Kevin and Jean called Jeremy right away. “We can give you $250,” they told their astonished nephew, telling him the good news about the bonus.

There was silence on the other end of the phone. When Jeremy finally spoke, it was in an oddly shaky voice. “You mean you’re spending your first bonus on me? No one has ever put me first before.”

The visit was serene with lots of laughter and chocolate chip cookies and gazing at the stars. Kevin and Jean are not trained to treat PTSD but they know how to love.

Their generosity is an example of living the Gospel in everyday life.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.