“We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do.”

Everyone seems to need help. A day rarely passes that we don’t learn of a natural disaster somewhere in the world. Right here in the U.S., we are experiencing a shocking number of tornadoes and floods that are eliminating whole communities. And this is in addition to those suffering from illness, financial insecurity, and an array of normal daily struggles.

No matter what situation you personally are experiencing, if you are reading this blog, you likely are someone who wants to help by sharing your time, talent, and treasures, however limited they may be. And it is our Christian obligation to do so.

Saint Theodora and the sisters were very generous with their meager resources. They devoted their lives to assisting others to the greatest extent of their abilities. They took little for themselves, welcomed students who could not pay tuition, cared for the sick and poor in their communities, and ran a free pharmacy.

We find many references in the Christian Scriptures that state that it is more blessed to give than receive and that God rewards generosity. Jesus taught this lesson to his followers. He said, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:11). And again, he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you” (Mark 4:24). (See also Acts 20:35, 2 Colossians 9-13).

In my book, Mentoring Heroes, I write of a woman named Harriet Gerber Lewis, who applied lessons she learned from her father, Max Gerber, to her family life and work as president of a large plumbing fixture company. As a once poor Russian immigrant Mr. Gerber greatly appreciated his American prosperity, and subsequently, was very philanthropic. Harriet said her father often reminded her that she could eat only one meal at a time and wear only one dress at a time. Any excess should be shared.  (Mentoring Heroes, 65).

The Gerbers were of the Jewish faith, so although they lived Jesus’ message, perhaps they took their lesson from the book of Tobit which says, “For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do wrong are their own worst enemies” (12:9).

So where do you begin and to what extent should you give? The magnitude of need is overwhelming, and you may have little to share.

Saint Theodora was a practical person. In a letter to the Reverend Joseph Kundek, in 1850 in response to his request of an organist, Saint Theodora said she could not help him. None of the sisters at that time could play the organ. She said that she couldn’t give what God did not give to her.

She also understood that her obligation to assist others should not put her own health and safety at risk. She was very upset when one of her sisters, Sister Josephine, died after neglecting her health. She said that Sister Josephine had concealed her sufferings, and there was no real merit or humility in not complaining. When ill, it’s best to seek help and get back to work as soon as possible. She wrote to her sisters from St. Mary-of-the-Woods, “You ought to take reasonable care of yourselves, so as to preserve a life which is entirely devoted to God and to the souls He loves so much” (Journals and Letters of Mother Theodore Guerin, 404).

You can’t be a generous gift giver if you can’t pay your rent. Nor should you be scrubbing someone’s moldy basement after a flood if you have asthma or other illnesses that compromise your health. But there always is something you can and should do.

While watching devastation on the news, my husband often says if he had a million dollars he would help all the people he sees suffering. The inability to solve a complete problem is not an excuse to sit back and do nothing. We are obligated to help someone, to do something to the greatest extent that we can.

Saint Theodora wrote,”Let us do what depends on us to advance the glory of our dear Jesus, the Spouse of our souls and of His Holy Church. After that, let us remain in peace; for we are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do” (Letter to the Reverend J. Kundek on September 27, 1842).

If each of us shares the most of our time, talent, and treasures that we can, no one person would be in need, including you and me. If you only have a few extra dollars, pass it on. Can you offer someone a job or tutor them in a course that would help them excel? Are you physically able to carry, lift, or clean? Perhaps it is a cup of coffee, sympathetic ear, kind note, gentle smile, or loving arms that is most needed. And there is never enough prayer to go around, so pray unceasingly for and with those who are weary.

Just do the most you can do for someone every day.

©Mary K. Doyle

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2 Responses to “We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do.”

  1. Kathryn Torrey says:

    Hi Mary, Your blog is wonderful and uplifting, thanks for sharing these thoughts. One way i give is through sharing my gift of nursing with others. It is part of my job, yes, but I try to go further than just what is required. When I bandage a hand or wrap a hurting wrist or arm, I pray over them as I wrap or bandage them. I pray over their pain and their circumstances that make them have to work in a place that often causes pain just by doing their work on a daily basis. If you can do it with a smile, when you are tired, with a joke or cheerful comment when inside you are feeling down, or patience, blessed patience when you are on your last nerve, it is my gift, and I remember it is for Jesus, it is in gratitude for the gift of nursing I have been given to share.
    Kathryn Torrey

    • That is beautiful, Kathryn. You probably are aware of the studies done on prayer and healing. Studies are showing that patients whose medical professionals prayed for them do indeed heal quicker and more completely. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

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