Madonna House

The Alms of Words

by Catherine Doherty

Are we convinced that we are our “brother’s keeper”? Do we understand how far this “keeping” goes? Business associates, friends, fellow workers, strangers who cross our paths now and then, our whole work-a-day world—all are our brothers and sisters, whom we must cherish in the Lord.

A smile and a pleasant word about the weather given to an ill-clad poor person in a public conveyance, or to a stranger, might mean the difference between his hatred of all that we stand for and understanding.

For example, with foreigners, clearly enunciated words, spoken slowly, lovingly, with a smile of encouragement, are rich “alms”.

The sick may be tiresome sometimes in their self-centeredness, pain and loneliness, their repetitious speech. They too need our alms of words.

The forgotten, the unwanted, the lost, the rambling alcoholic, the neurotic, the borderline “psychos”—would they be where they are if someone had given them the alms of words when they so desperately needed them?

Such words of love, compassion, and patience soothe the burning wounds of exhausted minds.

Words are so easy to give, yet so often withheld. They assuage the loneliness of the elderly, bring peace and joy, make crooked ways straight, and people feel wanted and loved again.

Let us lovingly show Christ to our brothers and sisters in the thousand ways of love’s ingenuity, but especially in the alms of loving words!

From Grace in Every Season, (2001), December 4, pp. 320-321, available from MH Publications