Posted July 21, 2011:
What Would Christ Do?

by Teresa Gehred.

Until 2:55 p.m., everything seemed to indicate that it would end up being another typical day of high school. We had, however, the end-of-the-day announcements to get through.

The PA system came on and after detailing upcoming sporting events and club meetings, they announced that a fellow student in my tenth grade class needed a place to live for the rest of the semester.

My mind raced. Who was it? Why would that person need to be taken in by someone? How does that person feel about this very public announcement?

Then my mind was abruptly stopped with one single thought: I hope my Mom doesn’t find out about this.

You see, in my fifteen years of life, we had already had many people living with us. One man my Mom had literally picked up off the street outside our church. He lived with us for a month.

So I had reason to be concerned. Oh, I didn’t have terrible memories of those instances of opening our doors to someone in need. Quite the contrary, I remember them being a sort of natural thing and a good deed that was enriching for our family as well as for the person.

Yet there were times when I longed for "normal" family life, the kind you don’t have to try to explain to people.

On the ride home from school, my brother and I agreed to say nothing about the announcement to our parents. But our plan was thwarted.

My parent’s reputation for generosity and practicing the corporal works of mercy was well-known. The secretary of the high school had already phoned my parents and asked them directly. Mom had already said "yes" and Mary Jo would be moving in that very evening!

Mary Jo had been living with her aunt, but due to her bad behavior—breaking the rules, sneaking out at night to party, etc., her aunt had kicked her out.

She had no other family in town, and in order for Mary Jo to get credit for that semester, she would need to finish out the term in this high school.

Now my mind had more to mull over. I knew who Mary Jo was—sort of. She was new to the school that year, but our paths rarely crossed. She hung around with a totally different group of people than I did, and we didn’t have any of the same classes together.

With teenage fears getting the best of me, I confronted my Mom, launching into a list of the reasons why I thought she should have said "no."

Then I asked her, "How come you said "yes" without consulting me?"

"She’s someone in need," she said simply, "and we have the means to provide for her need. Also, they had to know today, and I thought you wouldn’t mind helping out a classmate in distress."

Thinking of the limited sleeping quarters in my house, I said, "Where are we going to put her?" Mom said, "Well, your sister can sleep on a mattress in the family room, and Mary Jo can have her bed and be with you."

I made one last attempt: "But Mom, she’s caused trouble in her aunt’s place!"

Mom wasn’t too concerned with this. And really all of these were pretty useless questions which didn’t really get at the heart of what was distressing me. Such as: what would Mary Jo think of me and my family? Would she notice how weird we were? What would she say about us to people at school?

Suddenly I felt very exposed and vulnerable, and Mary Jo hadn’t even arrived yet. My Mom calmly answered all the surface questions that I had verbalized. Then she ended with a question for me: "Now Teresa, what would Christ do?"

This was long before there were bracelets and pendants with the WWJD logo (What Would Jesus Do?), and the question gave me a jolt. Angrily I said, "Well, she can go live with Christ somewhere else."

But deep down, I knew that this was where the mettle of my faith was getting tested. All along my parents had been teaching me that faith without works is quite dead and that there isn’t any realm of life that is exempt from the call of the Gospel.

I had been a firsthand witness to their faith in action and all the beauty and miracles it had wrought. How could I reject all that I knew deep down inside to be true?

Would I be one of those scribes and Pharisees whose virtue was just for show? How could I go to Mass on Sundays but not lift a finger to remove someone’s burden? Woe to me!

Thankfully, by the time Mary Jo arrived a few hours later, I was exhausted from all the emotional turmoil. She quietly moved into my sister’s bed, next to mine.

Actually, having a real person, a stranger to welcome, was a lot easier to do in practice than in theory. She was the fearful, awkward one suddenly living with eight strangers.

As I began to show her around the house and explain its quirks, my fears melted away. Now she was just a person who needed a home.

For over two months, Mary Jo lived with us, and she and I really enjoyed each other. She thought I was funny, and I appreciated her thoughtfulness. We became a link between our two different groups at school.

When she left to return to her mother, she cried and told us how glad she was to be a part of our family. She had never had an experience of a family like ours.

During the remaining years of high school, we kept in touch as best we could. Later on, we lost touch.

I don’t know where she is or what she is doing, but I’m grateful for her presence in my life. I’m glad she didn’t go to live with Christ somewhere else.


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