Have you ever been asked to do something out of your comfort zone? Over five years ago, due to family adversity, my sister asked me if her then 14-year-old daughter Angela could move from Wisconsin to Springfield to live with me and attend high school in Springfield. I felt God tugging at my heart to accept this new challenge. Also, I did not want to arrive at heaven’s pearly gates and have God say, “I gave you an opportunity to help someone and you refused.” I knew this was the right thing to do. Of course, I reminded God that one of the reasons I did not get married and have children was because I did not want to raise a teenager. God had the last laugh on that idea.
When Angela arrived, my priorities changed. Just like now with COVID-19, my world was tipped upside down. I leaned heavily on Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Fortunately, God also provided me with a supportive, understanding supervisor.
One of my first adjustments was driving a teen to and from school and swim practices. Little did I know that some swim practices were held at 5 a.m. I also learned about high school dances, fundraisers, and volunteering at swim meets. For example, I timed swimmers and prepared awards at swim meets. One of my most anxious moments was when Angela swam about 20 laps at a conference meet while she had severe bronchitis. At the same time, I was timing a different swimmer in a different lane. I was so nervous that I said, “God, I put Angela in your hands.” I didn’t dare look at Angela while she swam for fear that she would not finish. Miraculously, she swam her fastest time of the season in that event.
Spiritually, Angela grew. She was confirmed and participated in Catholic HEART Workcamp — a one-week camp held in a different state during which campers perform service work for the needy.
Life got easier during Angela’s junior year when she had a car and a driver’s license. Alleluia! Now, I had the typical worry of any parent/guardian of a teenager such as, “What time at night will she come home from a social event?” and “Is she where she said she would be?” Before that, I learned to “let go” when Angela obtained a learner’s permit and drove to school with me as the passenger. The first time was scary, but I took a deep breath and prayed for patience and wisdom.
During her high school years, I saw Angela transform. She shed her cocoon and took flight as a beautiful butterfly. She made new friends and gained a reputation for her kindness. She became a member of the National Honor Society. She was elected to the senior homecoming court and selected as the senior prom queen. She received a high ACT score.
Now Angela attends college with the dream to become a social worker. I feel confident that Angela will succeed and make a difference in her community. I am happy that I was a tiny part of Angela’s formative years.
Is God calling you to reach out and help someone? God didn’t waste any time calling me to my next mission of helping my brother, sister-in-law, and their 10 children. I encourage you to open your heart to God’s call. I guarantee that you will receive much more than what you give.
Laura Gundrum is a parishioner at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Chatham.