As a child, Joseph Calderon was homeless, living with his parents in their station wagon. Hungry, they stopped for Kentucky Fried Chicken and discovered that they had only enough cash to feed, “little Joey”. Joey’s father burst into the restaurant, hopped the counter, tossed 20 or so pieces of chicken into a bucket, and ran out. Joseph recalls being, “overjoyed” that there was finally enough for everyone.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I understood as a child, I thought as a child…
This story unearths an array of emotions as we reflect deeply. We feel compassion for a desperate father who resorted to stealing to feed his family. Victor Hugo’s protagonist, Jean Valjean from the classic, Les Miserables is brought to mind. We also sense feelings of fear, injustice and anger experienced by the workers and perhaps customers who observed this theft. For those of us blessed to have grown up without the specter of food or housing insecurity, we feel a profound sense of grief that the source of a small child’s joy was tainted by the nature of its acquisition.
…but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Joseph Calderon identified this early memory as nudging him toward a life of crime, leading to his eventual incarceration at age 23. Upon release following decades of disciplined effort, Joseph became a peer mentor helping to guide and support other former prisoners in their challenging readjustments into society. He poses this question to those he mentors:
Are you still on the path?
Joseph describes his personal path as, “living amends. Helping is my medicine. It keeps me humble.”
How might we respond to Joseph’s question?
What is my path, particularly during this time of global pandemic, civil unrest, economic disarray, and climate concerns when our way seems less clear and our footing uncertain?
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:
now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Is my path spacious enough to encompass and tenderly hold both my personal freedom and my awareness of the common good which recognizes the interdependence of all?
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” I Corinthians 13:11-13
– Elizabeth Schussler | Photo courtesy of Colin S. Foral