Yet another heat wave has struck Philadelphia and I'm not all that happy about it! Fortunately, relief is in sight as it is supposed to cool down tomorrow and then drop into the 70s on Tuesday! I guess a good sweat is good for the body...
In the wake of remembering the national tragedy of September 11th seven years later, I was graced with the presence of a true survivor of the attack. Chaz, a new guest to the Inn, was on the 82nd floor of the North Tower of the Twin Towers in New York City at the time of the attacks. The specific details of the day are unclear as Chaz himself cannot remember the events himself, but amidst successfully escaping the rubble, Fr. Mychal Judge (the friend of Fr. Michael Duffy and the first listed on the death toll) prayed over Chaz and he managed to get to a hospital. He had a very long road to recovery ahead of him that was persistently interrupted by other tragedies that plagued his life. Chaz's wife, mother and father all died within the year following 9/11/01 from cancer, leaving Chaz unable to fully focus his time and energy on his own recovery but into dealing with the loss of his entire family. Because of hospital bills and his inability to work, Chaz lost his job as a communications analyst in NYC and was therefore unable to afford his housing.
I'm not entirely sure how Chaz ended up in Philadelphia, but he is currently staying in a shelter in the city receiving services and thriving in the work programs designed for your stereotypical homeless person. Chaz recently got a job in his field and is slowly getting back on his feet, seven whole years later.
You hear a story like this and it really causes you to stumble. It seriously causes your heart to ache for the continued effects of the devastation that occured so long ago. For many of us, it is a distant memory, filed in there with who was at our eighth birthday party or the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. But Chaz's story reminds me, and hopefully you too, that those survivors and their families are still trying to overcome hurdles that were put before them on that day seven years ago.
I'm not asking you to relive that horrible day all over again because I think many of the survivors would do anything to erase that memory and move on. But I encourage you to continue to send prayers their way and to be conscious of the battle that others are fighting that we will never, ever know about. I heard a quote once that went something like this, "Be kind to everyone you meet for they're fighting a battle you'll never know about." You see, this experience, both with Chaz and on the more broad scope of working at the Inn, has really given me more insight into this idea than I could've gotten anywhere else.
The thing is, we're all carrying baggage. We're all fighting our own fights, with ourselves, with others, with God. So it is our calling to be sure that we don't throw another wrench into someone else's life. I'm not talking about changing everything about your life or to leave your baggage at the door; it's what makes you who you are. But what I am suggesting is meet everyone with the respect and love that both you and they deserve.
Chaz is an incredible example of strength and perseverance and his humble and graceful demeanor provide insight into the very love and peace God imparts on us. Of the many salutations St. Francis of Assisi gives us, the most fitting here is this: peace and all good. Be well and God bless!