Two coins, God and neighbor. The poor widow gave all she had for the opportunity to encounter God. Two coins, God and neighbor, finding God in my neighbor… Will I hang on or let go of what I have and others need?

Where does gratitude lead? When I was a child and grateful for something, it made me feel a sense of joy. Mostly the joy was for receiving something I wanted. As I matured, gratitude became something I noticed intentionally, that increased and filled me. Gratitude, particularly for the sense of the providence of our loving God. A heart robbed of gratitude is often filled with other “lesser gods” leaving us empty. In God’s wisdom, emptiness allows for new beginnings. Focus on myself leaves me empty. When serving with Love, a deep and quiet joy pervades. Despite all the practicalities of schedules and planning, serving fills the heart!

Thanksgiving and Advent are a seasonal time of gratitude and serving. This time helps prepare us to celebrate Jesus coming among us as a vulnerable human being with universal needs that we all understand. Empathy and compassion lead us to actions and service on behalf of those who, like Jesus, experience loss, poverty, separation, uncertainty, and fear in the current circumstances of their lives. We have opportunities to help open those dark places to the light of Hope.

The ways we reach out to encounter and support our neighbors in need are direct responses to the gratitude for the gifts God has offered to us. Gifts to be shared. Gifts of presence, and acknowledgment of the inherent value of people, beyond their current darkness.

These suggestions for reaching out of our abundance of gratitude, although familiar, have new ways of serving for our changing moment in time:

Adopt-A-Family is a cooperative effort to serve people in need with gifts for Christmas. These are folks who are not being served by other community Christmas programs. We, as a faith community, commit to buy, wrap, and deliver gifts to a designated pick-up location. Sign-up Genius for this way of giving. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20F0A4BADA729A3FE3-stjohns1

Christmas Anonymous hopes to return to escorting families to “shop” for their gifts at Christ United Methodist Church. There are opportunities for donations and volunteering to make the December 11 “Store Day” happen. In the 2020 COVID variation, 639 families/1767 children were served. This ONLY happens with community support!! www.christmasanonymous.org

Refugee Resettlement through Catholic Charities is offering community sponsorship of refugee families. St John is hoping to participate as a community sponsor which requires a team of people to offer their gifts in welcoming these new families to a strange new land and culture. Contact Mary at the Parish Center.

Family Promise serves families experiencing a housing crisis at the North Star House. Opportunities for involvement are rich, creative, and varied. It is a wonderful way to enter into the lives of these vulnerable families to encounter shared wisdom and support. www.fprochestermn.org

Jeremiah Program offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for transforming families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. Here in Rochester, Jeremiah’s proven, holistic approach begins with establishing a supportive community for single mothers to pursue a career-

track, college education. Through a combination of quality early childhood education, a safe and affordable place to live, and empowerment and life-skills training, families find stability and a path out of poverty. https://jeremiahprogram.org/rochester/volunteer/

How will you choose to serve and give of yourself as Christ would? How will you reach out from an abundance of gratitude and experience the joy of giving? Two coins, God and neighbor.

Mary Vlazny Director of Social Action