February 25, 2022

Love’s Litmus / Natalie Hoefer

Man’s quiet outreach is a reminder: ‘This is what Jesus would do’

Natalie HoeferThere were many people at the funeral home in Tell City when Peggy Newton dropped off food for mourners. She didn’t know the deceased, but brought the food as a favor to her friend, funeral home owner Larry Hagedorn.

“There were a lot of people there, but I noticed one particular lady hanging around,” she said. “She’s known in town, one of those people that people tend to ignore. You can tell she struggles.”

The next day, Newton asked Hagedorn, a member of St. Paul Parish in Tell City, how the food was.

“He said it was great, and that he shared it,” she said. “I asked with who, and he said with that one lady.

“Most people don’t even talk to her. To me, this is what Jesus would do,” she said of Hagedorn’s action.

Newton, a member of St. Michael Parish in Cannelton, recalled another incident involving her friend helping someone on the fringes.

One afternoon, Hagedorn happened across a man walking alone. They talked, and the man shared that he was trying to make his way back to his hometown near Henderson, Ky.—about 60 miles away.

“There was sleet and ice forecast for that night, and the man didn’t have anywhere to stay,” said Newton. Hagedorn “tried calling people this guy knew, but he never got hold of anyone.”

So, he drove the man more than an hour away to his Kentucky home, despite the impending weather.

“He didn’t have to do that,” Newton said. “But he doesn’t think he’s above anyone else. He would help anyone.”

Including her.

“He always looks out for me,” said Newton, a widow. Concerned for her safety, Hagedorn once poured a new cement sidewalk for her without being asked.

“In payment, he just asked me to visit his elderly parents,” said Newton.

As for Hagedorn’s job, she said, “He is so good with people who are mourning. And he’s so good with the elderly. He doesn’t think he’s better than anyone. And he doesn’t seek recognition.”

In 1 Cor 13:4, St. Paul notes that love is not boastful or arrogant.

St. Paul did not follow Jesus while Christ ministered on Earth. But he perfectly describes Jesus’ love in action when he identifies love as “not arrogant.”

How many times do the Gospels mention Christ mingling with and serving those whom the rest of the world view as outcasts—the sick, the poor, tax collectors, known sinners?

Jesus reached out to those on the margins. And he did so humbly, treating them as equals, as individuals worthy of dignity, respect and love. He ate with them, talked with them, laughed with them, mourned with them. He called them friends.

Christ also warned his disciples not to boast of good works and charity: “… do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward” (Mt 6:2).

St. Paul builds on this idea. In his Letter to the Philippians, he cautions: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3).

Who are the “others” in your life who stand on the sidelines? Who are the outcasts? Perhaps someone at work who struggles socially. Or a family in your parish from another country. Or a neglected senior citizen in your neighborhood.

Maybe the person is closer to home, like a shunned or forgotten family member. Or maybe there is a marginalized part of the community served by an organization in need of volunteers.

The act doesn’t need to be heroic. Say hello. Ask how their day is going. Share some food. Shovel a walk. Pay them a visit.

And as 1 Cor 13:4 notes, do so quietly and humbly, not “boastful or arrogant,” approaching those served as equals.

“I bet most people don’t know all the things he does for others,” Newton said of Hagedorn. “God bless people like him who treat everyone the same.”

(Send your stories of people you know who live out agape as described by St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:4-7 to Natalie Hoefer at nhoefer@archindy.org, or call 317-236-1486 or 800-932-9836, ext. 1486. Include your parish and a daytime phone number where you may be reached.)

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