My sister’s middle name is “Charity,” which the dictionary says is about giving to others in need and the Catechism says is about loving others and God, but I think it might be about the time we were hiking in the frigid north and she (so unfortunately) got diarrhea in the middle of a twelve-mile hike surrounded by nothing but national forest, subzero temperatures, swirling snow, and snowmobilers.
I was walking ahead of her, and the hike was on the western side of Michigan, which is rather flat and straight. My stride, thought short, is quick, so I outpaced her but would turn back to watch her, from ahead on the trail.
She dipped into the woods once, and then again, and she didn’t emerge the second time, so I decided to leave the other hikers with whom I was trekking and make the backtrack towards her disappearance into the tall trees.
As I approached, she made her way out of the brush and onto the trail, made a joke about sacrificing her underwear to the cause, and we laughed.
I told her she hit a new level of champion for getting sick in the woods in a snowstorm. (Can? You? IMAGINE??)
She told me it was uncomfortable, but, in the midst of feeling sick and emptying her colon-contents into the forest, she offered her discomfort and pain and illness to all of the foster children who were probably dealing with hard things and feeling cold and alone with no one to help them, either.
She mentioned how they were undoubtedly in overwhelming situations, unfamiliar territory, all of this with uncertainty and discomfort. She said they probably were without trusted adults to help them and therefore must feel very, very forsaken and scared.
So, in the moment none of us ever wants to have, she prayed for people who were even more vulnerable, and I know that this definition will never make it into the Cathechism…but, I think that my definition of charity is that one time my sister, wicked-burning-sick in negative-temperature Michigan, could reach beyond herself and hold a bunch of abandoned children in prayer, in hopes that they wouldn’t feel alone.