We've just finished prayer to close out Day One+ of our 2009 BASE Camp experience. The "+" because we really started yesterday with Mass, orientation, and some time getting to know one another. But today was our first on-site day. The exciting thing for me was to hear how the "newbs" were touched by today's many happenings in such a positive way, despite a somewhat ominous start (a drug bust in progress on Monroe Street as we were driving down at 8:45am).
It was great as always to see Sr. Kitty and to see her excitement at having a large group of BASE Camp young people to be at her service throughout this week. I know this sort of thing energizes her a great deal and I know it gives her hope for the future - a future where understanding will help to break down the barriers that separate people from one another.
There were a number of interesting moments today, but one struck me especially as the epitome of how small gestures can reap great rewards. Early in the day as we were preparing to move off in different directions we were scrambling a bit with deciding which tools to send where because we had a tool shortage. The shortage being that all of Sr. Kitty's tools had recently been stolen out of her back yard. But we worked it out and divided up our groups and began the work. At the Poppleton St. site where we had groups weeding and picking up trash I noticed a pile of trash laying in the middle of one of the alleys. As I walked closer I could see that this small pile of trash was the end of a trail that ran behind a house where there were literally hundreds of books, papers, articles of clothing and a wide variety of "knick-knacks" strewn about. When I reached the pile in the middle of the alley I realized that laying there amongst the trash were about a dozen bottles of prescription medications. Since there were small children about I immediately called over two of our young people - Megan and Joey - and asked them to clean up the trash in the street and especially dispose of the medications.
A few minutes later I was approached by a man - Tom - who asked me if I had seen who dumped the trash. He was very upset because he owned the house where all this trash was. As Tom later surmised, he had renters that had left recently and their idea of cleaning out the house was to dump everything out the back windows and into the yard. He left, and when I related the story to our youth they immediately took it upon themselves to clean up the man's yard. It took a while, and yielded about a dozen large bags of trash. When Tom returned a few hours later he was blown away that we had done the work. He tried to give me money, to buy the youth "pizzas or something." When I refused it he asked if he could make some kind of donation. I suggested he walk down the street to the Hezekiah House (a substance abuse rehabilitation center and our base of operations) a make a donation there, which he promptly did. When he returned he again thanked us and was getting ready to load all the trash in his truck when our youth again pitched in and loaded it for him. He came to me again and asked if he could buy us something - maybe tools. I told him about Sr. Kitty and how all her tools were recently stolen. At that moment she came out the front door of her house. Tom rushed across the street and offered to replace her stolen tools.
Answered prayers. In his homily Sunday morning Fr. Marty Demek talked of how this week these young people were going to be the answer to someone's prayers. And we saw it today, a ripple effect that began with picking up some prescription drugs in the middle of the street. Perhaps a mother whose prayer was her child never get started in the drug trade had her prayer answered when we removed that temptation from the middle of the alley. And perhaps Tom's prayer was answered for a relief from the stress and anxiety he was feeling because of what happened to his property. And perhaps Sr. Kitty's prayers to have her tools replaced was also answered.
Ripples... answered prayers... we all have the opportunity to be someone's answer to prayer. I saw it tangibly today, at BASE Camp - Day One+.