Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mapping Your Red Dots

Dear Friends,

We are hunters and gatherers. Ever since Adam and Eve foraged in the Garden, we have been on the hunt. It’s in our DNA – what we’re wired to do. Friday is the day my favorite girl and I go hunting.

We pause outside the Ventura store and look at each other one last time. She will go her way and I mine – we are after different prey. We anticipate the next moments and adrenaline courses through our bloodstream. There is a surge of synaptic brain activity. Senses are sharpened. As we enter, a tinkling bell over the door signals our arrival and the hunt is on. She moves quickly to the left. She is incredible. A glance at an article and within a second she can determine and evaluate the brand name, size, color, style, cost and how it will look on her. I move to the right. I’m hunting for hardcover books and within minutes I’ve captured two for me and three for her. Nearly new. Read maybe once. Original cost is $26.95 apiece but now they’re only a dollar. 

She catches my eye and holds up a red jacket. It’s a Scully – a high-end brand of western clothing. Not a brand you wear when you grab the reins and step into the saddle. Scully outfits are worn when you grab your guitar and step up on stage. Original cost: probably $125 to $175. It looks brand new. Price tag says $15 and she tries it on. Perfect fit. Too good a deal to pass up. We take our plunder to the cash register. The lady looks at the tag on the Scully and tells us that green tagged items are the daily special. The jacket is only 99 cents. YES!!

She and I are far too cool to be doing a happy dance on the way to the car but we are both very excited. This has been one awesome hunting trip. We’ve just bought approximately $285 of almost brand-new merchandise for six bucks. I guess that’s why they call them “thrift” stores.

The thrift stores we like to go to are the ones run by churches or parachurch organizations where all the profits go to ministries and missions. Those are also the places where we will donate things. Every year we take boxes of clothing, books, household items, DVDs etc. to those thrift stores. This year I’ll be donating far more than I’ll buy and both my unwanted things and my money are helping others. You’ve probably seen the Society of St Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores. The Society is a world-wide Christian organization dedicated to providing assistance for the needy. Food programs, disaster relief, shelter for the abused, job training, youth programs, prison ministries and indigent burials are just a few of the many services they offer. Income from the thrift stores provides the funding.

Vincent de Paul was born in 1581 into a peasant family in a small village in France. As a young priest, he was sent to Paris to minister to the wealthy and instead came face to face with French peasants living in squalor and misery. From this point, God changed the direction of his life. He enlisted others in helping orphans, the sick, and the hungry and a religious order was formed that became the lay Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

On a wall in a mission chapel founded by Vincent is a map of the city of Paris. Small red dots cover the entire map. Each dot marks a place that was touched by the humble priest during his life. An orphanage founded. Starving people fed. The sick healed. People helped. Furniture donated. A sermon preached to those hungry for the Word of God. Each dot representing the fruit of his ministry. Vincent believed in the priority of action – in spreading the Kingdom of God into where God had placed him. Not just preaching about God’s love. Showing people what God’s love looks like.

The gospel calls us to a life of love. Love for God. Love for others. The season of Lent is a time of self-reflection as we await in semi-darkness for the glory of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Take a moment and reflect upon your life. What does your map look like? Do you have a bunch of red dots scattered all over and filling the map of your own life? Do you have dots showing where you have made a difference in the lives of others? Where God’s love has been manifested through you? Where you have helped others? Where you have reached out and touched someone with the Kingdom of God? Do you have red dots spread all over your map showing your kind deeds, gentle words and loving actions?

What does the map of your life look like...?