Last week, my wife and I (and two additional chaperones) took 14 teens from our parish on our annual Summer Mission Trip. This summer, we chose to go to a Native American Reservation in Winnebago, Nebraska.
It was in Winnebago where we lived in community with other teens from Nebraska, Missouri, California and Massachusetts at St. Augustine's Indian Mission. The Winnebago Reservation is home to the Ho-Chunk tribe, and was founded in 1909 by Saint Catherine Drexel. She actually had walked on the grounds where we walked, and we all thought that was really cool.
Our work site was in neighboring Walthill, a small town located in the Omaha Reservation. Our task for the week was to help beautify the community by working on houses that had been overcome with weeds and shrubbery. As we pulled into town, we knew that we had quite the task to achieve.
Walthill is a community that has been hit hard in a number of ways. For example, the unemployment rate on the Omaha Reservation is hovering at 70%. There is also a significant issue with alcohol and drug abuse within the community. This was evident as we picked up dozens of beer and liquor bottles at all of the houses where we worked. We also noticed this first hand as people were going into the town bar at 9:00 am.
In total, we cleaned up 7 houses throughout the week. We heard a number of comments and thank you's from the residents as we cleaned up their living space. We were also requested to do other houses as well, once people saw the work we were doing. We honestly could have spent the entire summer working there. There was so much more to do!
We also had an opportunity to work in the town library. There our team worked on cleaning, painting, and creating a better learning environment for the children of Walthill, who apparently go there to escape what they have at home.
We often think that our way of life is the only way of life. This is certainly not the case. We are all called, through our baptism, to go out and serve others; to try and make a difference in the world by helping those in need. But we often question ourselves in saying, "What good is the small amount that this unimportant person can offer? What can I possibly do? If I had money, I'd give to the church or to a charity. If I weren't so busy, I would volunteer."
The truth is: we all have some money and some time. Sure, not enough to do all we wish we could do, but every little bit helps. Imagine what could be accomplished if every person gave just $1 to a charity or placed some money in our collection basket. Imagine if every child or teen in school offered to spend 5 minutes each day picking up litter outside.
As Jesus demonstrated in Sunday's gospel of the loaves and fish, a little bit can go a long way. We need to remember that everything we offer to Christ, no matter now small, can be transformed to meet the need of another.
Therefore, we thank God for all of the blessings in our lives and his abundant mercy. And we pray that we follow our baptismal calling and go out and serve others; to make a difference in the world, and to transform ourselves into the Body of Christ that we were meant to be.