Unsung Hero

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40

Andrea was heading home late after a full day at St. Mary’s Home in Norfolk. She’s a nurse from New York City who has been working with the children there for about four months. She wore cheery, colorful nursing scrubs.

She was tired and not the chatty kind, but I am such a fan of St. Mary’s that I prodded her a bit.

My wife, a portrait photographer, did a photo shoot at St. Mary’s several years ago and it profoundly affected her. It’s a home for the severely handicapped–mostly children. They are among the neediest umans on the planet, usually with both mental and physical handicaps that require unending care and supervision.

St. Mary’s provides this kind of care in loving, homey environment. The people who work there are simply heroes. Their work is constant service to the most vulnerable among us. And they do it not simply with patience, but with gentle compassion and unending cheer. The place itself is bright, clean and warm. It is a shockingly happy place.

“I’m familiar with St. Mary’s. It’s a remarkable place.” I said.

“Yes, I love it there. I work with some wonderful people.”

“You must be one of them. I am amazed at the work you do. It must be hard.”

“Yes, but I love it. I used to care for the elderly, which I enjoyed, but there’s something about these children. You grow so attached to them. There’s one little girl in particular. She has no family, but I call her my daughter.”

“There’s going to be a special place in heaven for people like you, Andrea.”

“Well, that’s where our reward is going to come. That’s the mistake people make. They think our rewards come here.”

I nodded and left her alone. She was pleasant, but clearly exhausted.

She lived in an unimpressive, one-story brick townhouse. Plastic kiddie-cars and sprawled bikes littered the weedy lawn. The screen door squealed and banged.

In a just world, she’d be living in a mansion. It’s comforting to think that she one day will.

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