by Father Mark Goldasich
I’m sure that you’ve already heard about this by now, but vendors out at Kauffman Stadium can no longer sell beverages this season, due to a technical glitch. That’s right: No drinks at ballgames this year. Why? Because the Royals lost their “opener.”
I had to think twice about leading with that paragraph above. After last week’s column on April Fools’ Day, I’ve been getting a lot of glares from people who were taken in by my fake news items. Therefore, because I want you to feel confident again in trusting what you read here, let me state now for the record: The Royals will have plenty of beverages, flowing freely, at their games this season, even though they lost their opening game.
Those outside the metro area may not be aware of something that’s been happening for the past 24 years on the day of the Royals home opener. Dubbed “Greater KC Day,” volunteers hit the streets of the city to hawk special editions of The Kansas City Star to raise funds for disabled and disadvantaged youth. In years past, it’s brought in some $100,000. This year over 1,500 volunteers braved cold temperatures on March 31 to support this cause.
Two items on that day’s front page grabbed my attention. The main story was about 24 hours of volunteering in Kansas City. The Star captured ordinary people doing ordinary things to make life better for others, especially those in need. Reading these snippets of daily life in Kansas City reaffirmed why this area is rightfully called the Heartland.
It’s the second item, though, that really grabbed my attention: It was a powerful picture snapped by Tammy Ljungblad. The shot shows an attractive 25-year-old woman by the name of Taylor Bray seated on a city sidewalk with a wicker picnic basket in front of her. Her attention is focused to her left, where she is engaged in conversation with a homeless man. The guy looks weary. The left knee of his pants is torn and you can see the long johns he’s wearing to ward off the cold. All of his possessions are contained in a jumble of plastic bags near his elbow. In front of him sits a lone bottle of water that Bray has just given him.
Bray is a business owner on a mission. Several months ago, while walking her dog in Liberty, Mo., she came across a bright red beaded bracelet with the word “Feed” spelled out in white on it. (You can get a glimpse of the bracelet on her right hand in the picture.) The day before finding that bracelet, Bray had seen a man checking out the dumpster behind her business, looking for food. That man, combined with finding the bracelet, Bray considered a sign from God. Now, around the lunch hour, she heads out with her picnic basket — filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that she’s made, chips and bottled water — to find hungry people on the streets.
That, in itself, is commendable. But even more so — and what captivated me about this picture — is that Bray is not just handing out food and moving on. She’s sitting down and talking to these street people, spending time with them. And the picture captures something even more powerful and remarkable: Bray is grasping the hand of the homeless man in both of hers.
Most of us, including me, would probably hurry by this guy, pretending he wasn’t there. Yet, here is this young woman, treating this homeless man with respect and attention. It led me to wonder: When was the last time someone took an interest in this man? When was the last time anyone tenderly took his hand in theirs? When was the last time anyone cared enough to spend time visiting with him? (To see the picture for yourself, type “24 Hours of giving noon to 5 pm” into your browser.)
This picture reminds me of a modern-day sixth Station of the Cross. That’s where Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, and he leaves an image of that battered face on the cloth. I’m sure that you know the name Veronica is composed of two Latin words — “vera icon,” meaning “true image.” Naturally, this reminds us of that “true image” of Jesus on that cloth. But Veronica herself, in her simple, loving care of Jesus in distress, was also a “true image” of what we’re called to be as Christians.
The Stations of the Cross are a powerful Lenten meditation. Check out the four pages we’ve dedicated to them in this issue. Abbot Barnabas has written some meditations there to help direct your reflections. As Holy Week draws near, use the variety of portrayals of the Stations, captured here by Fernando Ugarte, to inspire you to compose your own meditations.
And, after praying these Stations of the Cross, let’s imitate the example of St. Veronica and all modern-day Veronicas, by noticing and caring for the least of our brothers and sisters. In doing so, we’ll become “true images” of Jesus in our world today, one person at a time.