Good Morning, everyone! My name is Kim Scott and I am a high school French teacher at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School and also a care team member for Emmanuel’s refugee support ministry. As an educator, I am so fortunate in that I can teach my students French, and also have the opportunity every day to teach them how important it is to care for everyone. I live and grow in my Episcopal school’s mission as well as in Emmanuel’s mission, where we are asked to “worship and serve God so that all people may experience and grow in God’s love, acceptance and grace”.
Today’s service is about celebrating our neighbors and community. Here at Emmanuel, I am so blessed to be part of an extremely strong church community of caring, empathetic, generous, and faithful believers. Our church has so many passionate people in our midst who care deeply, empathize deeply, listen, support, advocate, and rally to bring hope and optimism and a sense of belonging to those in need.
I imagine that many of you, like me, can recall a special time when you witnessed someone, or you were that someone, being a good ‘neighbor’ to a person in need. Maybe it was helping someone get to a doctor’s appointment, or making a warm meal for someone sick, or just listening to someone who needed to talk. No matter how big or small the good deed, we have all seen how people can care so genuinely for others who are struggling.
Today, I’d like to share a special story from this past spring that exemplifies the goodness that comes from loving thy neighbor; and how EASY it is to help people feel seen, heard and cared for. This story also proves how powerful our interconnectedness truly is. Some people say there are six degrees of separation, but I honestly think it is more like three degrees of separation, especially when we get involved in community outreach and have a chance to meet and learn about our neighbors.
This past April, on a Saturday afternoon, I was home on my back porch when I got a call from a former student of mine, Dev. I had taught Dev French in 9th and 10th grade and he was now a senior. He had also been one of my French camp assistants so that is how he had my phone number. I said, “Hi Dev! What is going on?” In a panicked tone, he was in a Chipotle restaurant with a young refugee woman who spoke little English. Dev said, “I can’t understand what she is saying, Madame. I think she needs money, but I don’t have any, so I bought her some food here at Chipotle”.
Apparently, she had asked Dev if he spoke any Spanish, and he said, “No, I know a little French”. And she started to talk to him in fluent French which surprised him, and not having taken French his senior year, he was feeling a bit rusty and needed help with the translation. So, he called me. “She was talking so fast, Madame. Can you please tell me what she is saying?” So, Dev put the woman on the phone and I learned that she was struggling to support her sister and mother. Her only source of income was cleaning dishes and getting paid ‘under the table’ at a nearby restaurant because she did not yet have her work visa. She needed some money to pay her electric bill.
I asked her if she knew of Melanie Gray, Director of Outreach and Mission at Christ Church. She said, “No.” So I told her that she would need to contact Ms. Melanie Gray and that I would text Dev her contact information. She thanked me and then gave the phone back to Dev.
Dev asked,”Is she okay? I don’t know what to do to help her.” I said, “Dev, you were great. You did the right thing by offering her a meal and by calling someone you knew.” I told him her story and that I would text him immediately Ms. Melanie Gray’s contact information. He said he understood and that his phone was about to run out of battery, so we quickly got off the phone.
I thought that was the end of our conversation. But, fifteen minutes later, Dev calls me back. He said that he gave the woman Melanie Gray’s name and contact information and also explained where Christ Church was located in Alexandria. I was so proud of Dev! I said, “Dev, do you remember last week at school when our Upper School students watched a video interview of Ms. Melanie Gray who spoke about her work as Director of Outreach and Support for local refugees in the City of Alexandria?” “Oh, yeah, yeah,” Dev said. “And how Ms. Gray spoke about how we can help these local refugees by listening to them and sharing our resources with them. Dev, YOU did just that! YOU gave some of yourself by acknowledging her, by listening to her, and by calling me, using your resources! ! I am SO glad you called me!”
Dev replied, “Madame, that felt incredible! I have never spoken with someone in this kind of situation, and I can’t believe I was able to help her. “ He goes on to say, “I have been at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School for four years and I have heard us talk in our weekly chapel so many times about how important it is to help your neighbors, to be there for one another, in good times and in bad. And I got to do that! It felt so good!” He added, “I feel like I have been in this bubble where school is everything, school work, sports, friends, and I haven’t experienced a moment like this before on my own until now.” I said, “Dev, you are a true Saint! It takes a village to help one another and you stood up to help someone! Thank you!”
When we relate today’s gospel reading to loving thy neighbors, Jesus reminds us that we are not above or apart from others, that we are all interconnected and how important it is for us to have this awareness of our connections. This story about Dev makes me feel so hopeful for our youth, that they are listening to our stories and messages of loving thy neighbor. I believe we all need this kind of encounter to help free us from ourselves.
Through God’s love, we can all show acts of kindness toward our neighbors, opening the doors to those seeking the light, and helping them step out of the dark. Dev had shown this woman the light, the hope, the way. He was a gift to her that day. This interconnectedness is also part of God’s plan. I hope that you find a way to bring your kindness, generosity, care, and empathy to all parts of your life. That your gifts touch someone in need.
You all believe in bringing light into this world for the good of all. We all have our own stories of amazing moments shared where we have seen God’s grace through acts of kindness, stories that have inspired us to help others. And they remind us just how interconnected we all are in God’s work. Because we hear stories–all the stories of the people around us–we know that every moment is an opportunity to grow.
So today, we also welcome a child into our faithful and loving church community. Baptisms are so special in that they remind us that our children are the most important seeds of all- that when properly nurtured, they can live in and create a better, more beautiful, and more inclusive world. May all of you share your stories of goodness, and involve your children in acts of kindness.
We strongly believe in our neighbors and we live with a sense of hope and purpose when it comes to helping our brothers and sisters. Let us celebrate today and every day we are together, sharing our stories, and working for justice, equity, and peace with God’s love. Amen!
— Kim Scott – August 14, 2022
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog