Whether it’s because you couldn’t resist those cute little dimpled cheeks or you think you need an insurance policy for when sweet little baby grows into a tumultuous teenager, I bet you have a picture featuring your child’s derriere.
As cute as we think our unadorned cherubs are, social norms dictate us to keep them clothed. (It is also a good idea for very practical reasons.) However, it’s not just social norms or common sense which tells us to clothe the naked, but Works of Mercy too.
I volunteered at the Women’s Help Center to pass out clothes to mothers who don’t have the luxury of just running into Baby Gap when their child’s wardrobe is waning. Instead, they come to the center’s Angel Closet where volunteers give them a bag of clothes, some diapers and wipes – no coupon or credit card required. It’s just one of the services they provide as part of their mission to help children — both born and unborn.
The Women’s Help Center has a far greater call than providing clothing; they are advocates of life, encouraging doubtful women to see their pregnancy in terms of a blessing, not a burden.
Tough stuff- but I only had to distribute tiny clothes that other people had donated — the amount of which isn’t much more than what’s on the sale rack at one of those upscale baby boutiques.
We try to give each mother seven outfits in the size she needs, but sometimes it isn’t possible. For instance, there might have been a bunch of leggings, but without an appropriately sized shirt to pair with it. So, I would try and find an extra pajama or something else to supplement what I gave.
Where the diapers were kept, shelves sat mostly empty like they were waiting to be restocked after the Black Friday shopping rush. Sure, there were some in each size, but I feel certain that before my first son was even born I had more diapers in my over-prepared baby arsenal than on the mostly empty shelves in the Angel Closet. Still like the parable of the fishes and loaves, we had enough for the mothers who came that day.
There was one pregnant mother who came in looking for maternity jeans, but sadly we didn’t have any in her size. I felt so bad because I remember how hard it was to find anything that fit well and made me feel good when my pregnant belly swelled way past that of old Saint Nick. Luckily, I was able to give her a few cute shirts, and she was very grateful.
Everyone I met there seemed genuinely thankful. It was nice. I liked that we didn’t ask a lot of questions of the mothers who needed help. We asked them what they needed, and then where we could, we gave it to them.
It felt good, but like Tony the Tiger I wanted to feel Grrrrrrreat! I wanted to do more for this organization which seemed to operate under the principle of ask and you shall receive. So, I asked.
Through my parish I am a member of a women’s circle, a group of other mothers whose mission is to support each other as well as the families of Burmese refugees that belong to our church. These ladies are bright, funny, capable women, but for as many accolades as I could easily assign them, it is their devotions to family and faith that make them so remarkable.
At each meeting, our circle prays for the needs of members, other parishioners, and even people we have never met whose suffering has touched us. We plan activities that support our mission or other causes that a member holds dear, and where appropriate involve our own children in these efforts. We also drink a lot of wine.
This circle is named after Saint Gianna, the patron saint of mothers. Saint Gianna was a devoted mother, physician, and wife who is best known for refusing both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy could result in her death. She was canonized a saint in 2004, and her last child – the one she ultimately sacrificed her life for, was there at the canonization.
No doubt Saint Gianna would support the work of the Women’s Help Center, so I asked the ladies in my circle to join me in hosting a baby shower for them. Besides, most of our members still have little ones at home. At almost every meeting someone is announcing a pregnancy, or introducing us to a new baby. There is definitely something in the water wherever we get together, (which is why I try to stick to the wine.)
Still these water-drinking moms could pass along their outgrown clothes and it would be an easy way to help the mothers at the Women’s Help Center. For those of us whose children are well past wearing onesies, and are closing in on the years when it may be necessary to pull out that picture of the naked hiney, I asked them to bring diapers.
It’s funny because I always donate my children’s outgrown clothes to charity, but the joy I get from it has more to do with cleaning out the clutter in my boy’s closets than it does helping someone in need. It’s not that I don’t want to help people less fortunate; it’s just that until now I never thought much about what I was doing. It wasn’t until I had the experience of seeing the grateful faces of the people these donations help, that I realized how much my castoffs matter. When you want as badly as I did to give a pregnant mother a pair of jeans that fit, it makes you realize that something as simple as cleaning out your closet truly makes a difference.
As expected, the ladies of Saint Gianna were ever generous donating everything from baby shampoos to strollers. The ones that couldn’t make the shower met me in the school parking lot and we transferred boxes and bags of loot from one trunk to another like we were part of some clandestine operation smuggling baby paraphernalia.
In fact, I am pretty sure we collected enough baby gear to open our own store. Perhaps, it could even be called Sweet Cheeks.
Prayer of Saint Gianna
My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls,
And in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm which
You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms, I come to You
To ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to
comprehend and to do always Your holy will, the grace to confide in You,
the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms