Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

Sweet Cheeks

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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.

Some of the wonderful ladies of Saint Gianna

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.

Just to give you an idea of SOME of what was donated.

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

//

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Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

17 thoughts on “Sweet Cheeks

  1. Struck a cord with me! Bill was in med school when we had twins and money was so tight. Not this tight of course, but I know some of that feeling of wanting to offer the world to your kids and not always being able to. Great entry, Lara. I know these missions of mercy are life-changing for you and I’m enjoying being along for the ride!!

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    • Thanks Amy. I always appreciate your comments. I think all of us new moms get a little nutty with wanting to give our new baby everything, and hopefully that’s something we outgrow regardless of income. I noticed after I had my second child that I didn’t pay much attention to what clothes I put him in. I was kind of over the matching hat, shoes and outfit thing. Besides, there is so much laundry (and still is) that if my second had a little spit up on him or a spot from lunch I didn’t worry about it. After all, I didn’t have the luxury of clean clothes (much less a shower) so I figured it just made us all the better companions. BTW, I do have time to shower now 🙂

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  2. Sounds like we need to collect maternity clothes next time! I always thought there should be a maternity consignment shop!

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    • Ashley, I mentioned to the group that they take maternity clothes. I am not sure if we got any because I didn’t go through the bags. If the women who came in looking for baby clothes were pregnant then we asked if they needed any maternity clothes. We seemed to have enough tops, but the bottoms were scarce. A maternity consignment shop is a great idea but I still have PTSD from those clothes so that’s one store I won’t be opening!

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  3. Glad you’ve evolved and now realize donating clothes is meaningful and more than getting rid of your personal clutter. There are a ton of garage sales every weekend. Never understood why my relatively “well off” neighbors would sell baby clothes instead of donating them. Perhaps the organization you volunteered at can suggest to the garage sale organizers to make a donation. They can find the garage sale listings on craig’s list.

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    • Norm, you always have such resourceful ideas. I am not sure why people bother with garage sales anyway — you put 10 cents on something, they want it for a nickel. You probably get more in tax deductions than you do in nickels and yes, donating is way more meaningful (if you take the time to allow yourself to feel good for your kind deed.)

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  4. Another great post, Lara ! Thanks for including us in your beautiful journey !

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  5. Thanks again, Lara for an always well-written and thought provoking blog. I too was busy cleaning out closets for the Burmese people -more intent on my satisfaction to burge our overstuffed closets than helping the recipients!

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    • Mary Jo- At least we were doing the right thing with the donations. And intent or not the Burmese will be very grateful. I guess what we have to do is realize there is satisfaction from both, and ultimately what we are doing makes a difference beyond a tidy closet. But there is something to be said for a clutter-free closet!

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  6. This is sort of on the topic of the post in a roundabout way. Lara, a former high school employee of ours, had an influence on my way of thinking recently. I attended a Bar Mitzvah in Michigan this past weekend and it was fun but exorbitant. 550 people, a professional rap singer at what was formerly The Ritz –you get the drift. The religious part was Friday night and the twin boys, who studied all year, ran the service. They gave a sermon and basically said they realized they were dealt a pretty good deck cards and acknowledged other kids were not as fortunate and didn’t have the same opportunity. Budding liberals, the boys are open minded. We could have simply written them the check as a gift and be done with it. But I wondered what would Lara do? A couple of weeks ago, a lady, came to Jacksonville and spoke about her book” It was about the 9/11 disaster. Her one brother, the CEO of Cantor-Fitzgerald, was taking his two kids to elementary school that morning while her other 35-year old brother was not as fortunate. More than 600 Cantor-FItzgerald employees perished. Her CEO brother told Edie, who was in a comatose state, that “we have to take care of the empoyees families.” Somehow she garnered the strength and setup a foundation. $250 million dollars later the foundation succeeded. Edie, a lawyer, learned she was good at this and made it a permanent foundation to help terrorist and natural disaster victims. This month, Cantor-Fitzgerald is matching the funds. We made a $100 donation in each of the boys’ names and Cantor Fitzgerald matched it. Thanks Lara for the idea.

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    • Norm~thanks for sharing this. What a great idea; and meaningful way to acknowledge a significant event in your friend’s children’s lives. The money you gave will make a difference to someone affected by 9/11. I think its more important than ever to remember the events of that day, the people that were lost and the way our country came together in such sorrow and emerged united. For the children to young to remember that day its important for them to understand what it means to our country. It’s always amazing to hear stories like these — how people can take a tragedy and use it as impetus for doing good. Thank you for sharing such an inspiration gesture and also the significance behind it.

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  7. Hi Lara,
    I am really enjoying your blog. Very inspiring! I had thought about volunteering at the Women’s Help Center at one time but never followed through. Maybe this is something I could look into doing for the new year. Thanks, Lara!

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    • Lisa, you should volunteer there — they would love that! They just moved the angel closet to their main location so I know they have a lot to do to set up the new place. Thanks for reading 🙂

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  8. As usual, my response is Comcast Turtles-slow. I cannot begin to adequately express my gratitude for the lovely and much-needed items the sisters of St. Gianna’s Circle generously collected. I haven’t yet finished going through all of the clothing, as I too, “have ‘other’ work to do!” Rest assured, I’m chipping away at sorting the items in-between my other responsibilities and I coo over each precious outfit. That’s the problem of working in the Angel Closet, it’s like being a personal stylist for each baby that needs some clothing…”This little shirt would look cute with those little pants and this jacket! Oh, this little jacket is darling! Let me see, where is that little hat I came across a few minutes ago…”

    I fully intend to invite myself to the next Circle meeting, after the first of the year. Crass, no? A letter would suffice, but I know many of these loving women who, incidentally, helped me out last year with a client who had no money for Christmas for her two young boys. No longer are these women participating in random acts of kindness, these ladies have it down to a science!

    So, for the countless mothers and their babies, on behalf of the Board, staff and volunteers, I thank these women for their love and generous nature, as I am certain the Blessed Mother looks upon them with love and tenderness. Thank you, ladies!

    Patti Sloan

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