Michelle Martin

Don’t just sit there

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

We’ve reached the doldrums of the year.

Christmas and New Year’s are over. Easter is so far away we haven’t even started Lent yet. While the days are slowly getting longer, it’s still dark when I wake up and again by the time I finish work, and long periods of damp, gray weather mean that there’s not all that much sunlight in between.

Meanwhile, we’re besieged by what seems like endless streams of bad news, from climate change to political divisions so deep it can seem like people are living in entirely different worlds.

Students in school have started the long slog from winter break to the end of the year, in what they assure me feels like an endless treadmill of history fair and science fair to diagnostic testing to math homework to how do I do a bibliography?

My kids always get a little squirrelly this time of year, and it doesn’t surprise me. I do, too.

So what to do?

Just about anything, as long as you do something. Extra points if it involves helping someone else, which will brighten your mood as well as their day.

The corporal works of mercy aren’t there simply to benefit the hungry and thirsty, the sick and the homeless and migrants. They are there for the benefit of those who perform them, to show them what it means to bring positive change into the world, to allow them to participate in the work of God.

It’s not always easy, and often, our small efforts don’t seem to have much effect. I can offer someone panhandling on the street a piece of fruit from my bag, or maybe a dollar, and what good have I done? Plenty of people — maybe plenty of people reading this — would say that I’m contributing to the problem, encouraging people to beg and not doing anything that will materially alter their circumstances.

That’s true, as far as it goes. But, for a few minutes at least, they will be less hungry. If I do it right — if I offer something, ask if they want it and listen for their answer — for a few seconds, they will know they are seen and heard, treated as a fellow human being, a fellow child of God.

And there is so much more to be done, and so many ways to do it. There are organizations, from Catholic Charities to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, that are always looking for volunteers. If signing up and showing up at a set time isn’t your thing, you can still walk out your door and clean up your neighborhood.

As I said, it doesn’t matter so much what you do. As long as you do something.


  • family life