(Shawnee, PA, 7/22/13) The Mercy Ride goal is to raise awareness and money for Mercy Housing and its resident services on a national basis. Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to introduce Mercy directly to a homeless person, then later that day feel what true sacrifice means.
I believe in serendipity, that good things happen coincidentally and often seem God-inspired. I lagged behind the other riders yesterday at McDonalds to finish my post and to call auto part stores for a part for our support vehicle. The team had been on the road ahead of me for about 30 minutes when I finished and was stuffing my iPad into a plastic bag to keep it from getting sweat-soaked while a rode hard to catch them. That’s when Donna approached me. She had seen my Mercy Rider jersey and asked, “Do you help the homeless?” I replied that I was part of a team promoting a organization that did. She answered, “I’m homeless.”
The daily office readings this past week focused several times on mercy, a dear friend had pointed out. The Gospel reading at Sunday Mass (Luke 10:38-42) was on hospitality. I talked with Donna for 45 minutes about her situation, what Mercy Housing does and what services might be available locally to help her situation. Unfortunately, Mercy does not yet have any housing yet available in Pennsylvania. Donna told me she’d received a God-inspired impulse to go to McDonalds and said it must have been to meet me. I believe one is offered opportunities to act upon, and we get to choose whether to act or not. Based on her story of domestic violence and fragmented living, I thought Mercy’s resident counseling services (which is what we are raising money toward) would have been perfect for her. I told her she could contact me through our website and to contact Mercy to see if there was anything they could do. I said I would keep her in my prayers that day. She said she would keep me and what we were doing in her prayers. I bought her a cup of coffee, gave her a hug and departed.
As I rode hard to try to catch the team on Highway 30 (also known as the Lincoln Highway), I passed by a historical marker east of Greensburg about St. Xavier, the site of the first U.S. convent of the Sisters of Mercy of Ireland, established in 1843. Those sisters were involved in founding Mercy Housing 30 years ago. Another coincidence to ponder.
I caught up with the team at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. It opened in 2012 on the site of the crash where passengers intervened with the fourth plane on September 11. A white marble wall at the end of a long black stone pathway has inscribed with each of the passengers names on that flight. A park ranger said the wall is aligned with the plane’s flight path, pointing to the crash site. Currently, only family members are permitted to actually visit the site. A heavy wood-timbered door at the end of the wall provides a place of reflection and prayer. It was a solemn place of remembrance for the ultimate act of courage. Of sacrifice. The team came together in a secluded spot and offered our prayers of remembrance for what they did.
The team has prayed together nearly every morning since the beginning of the ride. We pray for our mission, safety, support for Mercy Housing and for each other, and patience from drivers. Then Greg will usually say, “Let’s roll,” and everyone mounts their bikes and starts down the next road. “Let’s roll” was the last phrase uttered on the cell call as he and a group of passengers went after the terrorists on Flight 93.
We each get to choose how we “roll” every day, in many small and, occasionally, big ways. I will remember those ways on this Sunday, one of the final days of our ride.
Stories within our story.