At the end of Sunday’s service of June 9th, Reverend Tony challenged us to raise our hand if we would commit to find someone in need to help in the coming days. I don’t know if anyone else raised their hand, but I did not because I don’t work that way. I don’t have to go out and find someone to help. People in need simply appear. Thank you for this challenge. I want to take this opportunity to share, from personal experience, the immeasurable blessings one can receive from helping someone. The resulting fulfillment one feels, in itself, amounts to joy.

Eight years ago, I received a blanket email from someone in our community announcing that Joy, an eccentric neighbor, was in the hospital as a result of seizures and was unresponsive. It was not until I read that she had no family – no one – that I put on my coat and went to the hospital. I soon found out that Joy had MS, which explained her strange behavior, and was a hoarder of the worst kind. She was basically a bag lady with dilapidated property. I began to look after her. A year later, two other women – one, a friend, the other, a neighbor – came on board to help me and a team was created. Joy steadily deteriorated. Two of us became joint powers-of-attorney. We sold her property, invested her money, and moved her into a beautiful assisted living home. The luxury was completely lost on her. Regardless, she was safe.

Joy’s properties were crammed with endless bins and boxes of things she had bought at auctions, but never sold. While having one of her properties cleaned out, we instructed the workmen to get rid of anything made of fabric because of the stench. Everything else was to be picked up and sold at auction. As her power-of-attorney, I could not take one saucer, even though most of her stuff was broken. I could, however, take things that were slated for the trash and had kept a few things I had found in a trash pile to be sold at the annual neighborhood sidewalk sale. One day, for some unknown reason, I went into the room where full trash bags were piled high before being loaded into a truck and taken to the dump. And for another unknown reason I lifted a quilt atop a box. Beneath, was a large bag of jewelry headed for the garbage dump. The jewelry, which I later found out included some valuable vintage pieces, I could legally keep.

Six months after encountering Joy in the hospital, my mentor Fr. Stephen, with whom I had coffee every two months, asked if he could bring along a young woman that had landed in a shelter. Next to Jimmy Carter, Fr. Stephen was the closest thing to Jesus. He opened shelters for Covenant House that housed homeless youth. Of course I said yes. He walked in with a beautiful girl named Hayal who had just turned 19 and was from Turkey. As I began questioning her about how she had come to the States, Fr. Stephen shot out, “I have an errand to run. I’ll be back in an hour and 15 minutes.” By the time he returned, I had heard a story of abandonment and abuse that should never befall any human being.

Long story short, my husband and I adopted Hayal. She was baptized and took the name, Eleni. I never wanted to get married and was too busy to have children, but God had other plans. Now I found love that I didn’t know existed. Eleni just received her second masters degree in Paris. Part of the money from selling Joy’s jewelry paid for her education. She is living with her Greek architect husband in London and working as a biostatistician for a pharmaceutical firm. Mother’s Day is my new favorite holiday.

I believe that God communicates with us through coincidence. If we take action, we set ourselves up to receive miracles. If we shrug it off to “just a coincidence,” that’s all it will be. I also believe that coincidence confirms that we’re on the right path. Joy and Eleni, both had unfortunate lives, both had certifiably mentally unfit mothers. Both crossed my path. Both were born on April 3rd. For me, this validates that we don’t have to go searching for someone to help, but to recognize the needs of someone in front of us. President Carter has, and will always be the #1 role model of aiding selflessly.