September 18, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

How could I have handled these situations better?

Shirley Vogler MeisterEarly one Sunday last month, the first thing I did was the routine with our two cats, one of whom needs insulin twice a day.

Then I headed outdoors in the dark to fetch newspapers for a neighbor and us. When I reached the sidewalk below our steps, I noticed something large and strange on the lawn. I quickly realized it was a man, who was motionless. I dashed indoors to tell my husband, Paul, and call 911.

Shaking with fear, I stood with my husband at the front storm door to wait. Soon, two police cars arrived. The officers nudged the man, but he didn’t awaken immediately. I feared he was ill. Actually, he was drunk. The officers finally learned from him that he had cut through our neighborhood to reach his home much farther south of us.

This was the first time that I had seen a belligerent drunk—except in movies or on television. The man was combative so the officers called for backup. Wisely, they also called for an ambulance. The officers were efficient, understanding, helpful and professional. Two of the officers talked with Paul and me.

Paul and I then went to early Mass at our parish church. I prayed first for the man who needed help. It was comforting to know he was at a hospital being helped. I also prayed for the police officers on duty that morning. However, I often include law enforcement officers—and firefighters—in my prayers.

After Mass, we chatted with friends. Paul headed for the car first. I was a short distance behind him. Sitting on a curb was a woman that I had seen in the church vestibule when she came in to use the ladies’ room.

Was she OK? She said “yes,” then asked me if a certain man was a member of our church. The name wasn’t familiar, nor did I later find his name in the parish directory. She said she was enjoying sitting where she was on such a nice day. I told her to have a good day.

As I went to our car, she stood and called to me, saying she was hungry, sick and had no money. I told her I had none, which was true. I also suggested some ways in which she could get help.

Later that day, I thought: How could I have handled either experience differently or better? I was second-guessing myself, of course—not always a good thing to do. I wondered if these two unusual incidents on the same day were a “wake-up” call for me. Did I really react in a Christian manner?

Mostly, I realized that I am no “Mother Teresa.” I have a lot more to learn about doing God’s will.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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