“Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count our blessings.” I don’t know where that quote originated but I’ve been thinking about it since Thanksgiving morning in the Church of the Little Flower where some of KC’s inner-city parishioners sat bundled in a late autumn chill because the parish’s boiler had given out after half a century.  It is tradition at their annual Thanksgiving Mass for each person to state something for which s/he is grateful.  Many are poor.  Many have illnesses—some that are terminal.  Many have difficult lives.  Each expressed gratitude for good things in his/her life.  Each possesses blessings enough.

Boilers cost a lot of money—ours will run about $75,000 to replace.  But friends are responding.  That same morning, I attended a turkey dunk party hosted by the Welsh Family; it is a fun Kansas City tradition of recent decades in which people bring their uncooked main course to have it deep-fried.  While waiting, they mingle and mix with friends, rejoice in family, share stories, play games, and lift a glass to toast life’s blessings.  They also donated about $10,000 to support my ministries.  A very humble and recently deceased member of the community, Shelia Brashear, remembered the parish in her will; ever-dedicated Catholic philanthropists named Dunn, Hodes, McDonnell, McCullough…also jumped in to help; friends at Cure of Ars Parish took up a collection.  The long and short of it is that the boiler is getting replaced, and the little urban parish that provides such an important role in our community remains optimistic for its future and the ways it impacts our city.

This Advent, I am especially reminded of people helping people, those who look out for the lowly, care for the downtrodden, and remember the forgotten.  When I put out a pre-Thanksgiving notice for winter items needed at various social agencies, people responded with immense generosity to help former inmates get resettled in society, provide a sign of care for those waiting at bus stops, supply children in public schools and clients in care centers with warm apparel, and remind elderly residents that there is still lots of goodness in the world.  People dropped off food for pantries, slightly used gifts for Christmas baskets, coats for transients, gift cards for families, and good cheer for all.  Kansas Citians have been very generous to me and I, in their name, can generously support those on the front lines who serve less fortunate citizens.

There is no greater gift in my life and ministry.  I have enough—far more than enough.  People know that items or money directed my way will benefit others.  There are so many amazing people of goodwill in our city and beyond.  Elizabeth Barret Browning once said, “Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush is on fire with God.  But only those who see this take off their shoes; the rest of us sit around and pluck blackberries.”  We take off our shoes to behold the divine presence as Moses once did, to realize that God has no hands in this world but our hands that can reach out in His name, and rather than busy ourselves by adding up our troubles or plucking berries, to acknowledge that we have enough, that we are blessed beyond measure when we share our blessings.

Thank you all for your tremendous kindness and charitable love to our brothers and sisters around town.  I add special appreciation for generous souls who, for over a year, have pitched in to improve conditions in and around Little Flower in countless ways; they are more of the usual suspects: Kopp, Tiehen, Oades, Darby, McGonigle, Wilson, O’Brien, Naylor…and I am grateful for the blessing that you all bring me and others through acts of charity.  If you can, join us for Christmas Eve Mass there, 58th and Euclid, in our soon-to-be warm church; it starts at 4:30 (carols at 4:00).  Together then, we can once again give thanks for heaven coming to earth.