Monday, January 27, 2014

Saint of Hungary and the Homeless

TBM Post #37: The Saints - Picking Them, Picking Us

I "picked" St. Elizabeth of Hungary as my Confirmation saint when I was 13. We were told to research saints, find one we liked, and write a five page paper on him or her. I'm still not sure why I picked her; maybe I liked that she was a princess, or the way she cared about people.

A very-very short bio:

St. Elizabeth of Hungary was born on July 7, 1207 to King Andrew II of Hungary and Gertrude of Merania. At age four, she was sent away to the court of Thuringia (in Germany) for her education, as she was already betrothed to their heir of that throne, Louis IV, whom she married at age 14 in 1221. They had a happy marriage and three children - alas, this was the time of the Crusades, and off Louis IV went, only to die of a fever in Italy.

Elizabeth, always giving and pious, decided the court life was not for her (as her in-laws were very against her charitable nature and actions), made accommodations for her children, and left the castle to serve the poor. Elizabeth used her dowry money to build a hospital. She had a difficult confessor who held her to impossible standards, and still she worked tirelessly for the sick and the homeless until her death in 1231, at age 24.

At age 25-going-on-26, my life span is already longer than hers. And yet, it cements further in my mind that St. Elizabeth of Hungary picked me, though it appears merely circumstantial. She is the patron saint of hospitals (married to a doctor), nurses (raised by one/ my mom), bakers (I try?), young brides (check!), countesses (?), dying children, exiles, homeless people*, lace-makers, widows and the Third Order of St. Francis.

*Homeless people are the reason I know St. Elizabeth of Hungary picked me.

Tokyo, Japan - June 2012: Homeless people living in cardboard boxes
I am drawn to homeless people. I feel empathy for them, and pity. I want to help them, and I've been faced with a very real way of helping them while living down here in New Orleans. They are very visible. They are on street corners and by the highway and downtown and uptown. They ask for help, any kind of help.

And we are strapped into our budget. We're living off savings, living off a grad school budget. We are not poor, especially considering our surroundings. I don't think Will or I really understand what true poverty is. But our belts our tight. We give our dollar or two at mass, even though "ten percent of our income is still zero," Will jokes. I obsessively go over our budget, as if money is going to appear somewhere. Diapers, wipes, baby butt cream and now teething gel. I want to buy Grace a Megaseat; I'm tempted to ask for it for my birthday in March. But that money is better spent on baby proofing the house...

Then again, people survive on a lot less. I'm working on my daydreams, trying to find the line between sprucing up the home and the reality of lack of basic necessities. Elizabeth brings me back to that.

We don't have a lot of money, and we've made the decision not to give money directly to people. Instead, I carry non-dairy protein drinks, meal replacement bars and nutri-grain bars, and vegetable+fruit squeezes in the car with me. Last week, I emptied a box full. Today, I gave out one. If we had more money, I would buy Subway gift cards and hand those out for delicious, healthy meals.

The most important thing, however, is to look at the person in the face and smile. Homeless people are humans and need more positive human interaction. It is shaming that our society cannot take the time to look at another human being in the face, even if it's to wave and say hello.

I understand that safety is always a concern. I often have Grace in the car with me, and if I felt it was unsafe (i.e. I never open my window at night), I would not put our lives in danger. However, most people are simply pleading for acknowledgement.

Once we are settled in our next location, I'd like to start helping in a food kitchen. The homeless are truly on my heart. I pray for them daily. I've cried thinking about the homeless out in the cold up north. I cannot imagine it; I wonder where their families are, where their little platoon has gone, or why they have left.

If you are also interested in helping your fellow humans, and if you're worried about feeling uncomfortable, we're in the same boat. I've become even more introverted since college, and I'm blushing now just thinking about putting myself out there. I could make a total fool of myself. And, you know - I don't do that enough. Risk my pride. Risk being shown that I have more to give this world, and risk realizing that my potential for giving has only just begun.

So, for now, I start with rolling down my window and smiling and handing them food and saying, "God bless!" Thank you, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, for placing this desire deep in my heart, and modeling true charity and giving of self.

May we all follow in your path, in our own way.

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1 comment:

  1. Lovely. I love 'hearing' how people's confirmation saints continue to influence their lives long after their confirmation.