Personal Reflection: Sometimes God refuses to let us ignore him
By Enedelia J. Obregón
It is easy to ignore God when he is calling. Most of the time we don’t hear him calling because we don’t stop to listen in prayer and contemplation. The distractions in life are loud: family obligations, deadlines at work or other volunteer activities. There are times, however, that he puts others in our lives to get our attention. That is what happened to me with the Halloween floods that devastated parts of the Austin area (Pflugerville, Onion Creek, Manchaca, Buda, Del Valle, San Marcos and Wimberley).
A friend and fellow CRHP sister posted a Facebook status on the need for volunteers to help clean up the mess. She had been out there tearing down soggy and moldy Sheetrock and insulation along with other volunteers. Just show up at this place, she wrote.
“I need to be there,” I told myself, but then remembered I had something else planned for that Saturday. I also I would get in the way since I’m no expert on flood recovery. But I asked my 23-year-old son if he was interested in helping and he said he was.
That Saturday morning was cloudy and drizzly. “Maybe I shouldn’t go,” I thought. “I’m sure there will be a special collection at church and I’ll donate then.”
My son was ready when I woke up, which made me feel guilty, so I got ready, too.
We arrived at Crossroads Christian House on E. William Cannon Dr. and S. Pleasant Valley Rd. There was a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. At a huge tent, dozens of volunteers were signing in and we all got a three-minute orientation about safety. We were divided into smaller groups and each group was given an address for a house on which we would be working.
My son and I carpooled to the house, which was not easy to find since street signs were down. As we walked in search of the house a car pulled up next to me. It was Cathy, whom I have known for ages; she works at the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas in Austin where I am a regular donor.
“Do you live here?” I asked as I reached out for her hands, shocked to see someone I knew.
“Yes,” she said. “I got five feet of water in the house. What are you doing here?”
“We’re volunteering, but we can’t find this street,” I said, telling her the name of the street.
“I live on the street, and this is it,” she said, pointing to the street. “What house are you working on?”
I told her the house number.
“That’s my house!” she said. “I can’t believe this!”
“God wanted me here,” I told her. “But sometimes he needs to hit me upside the head to get my attention.”
The group of volunteers at Cathy’s house spent the day tearing it apart. Aside from pulling down the Sheetrock and insulation, there were items in boxes and plastic tubs filled with dank water that had to be poured out. At orientation, the trainer had warned us there would be water and mud everywhere and that it would stink.
“Anything you could possibly imagine being in that water probably is,” he said.
Thank goodness for the masks and the leather gloves because it’s impossible to get away from it. Every single item Cathy owns was wet, muddy and smelled like mold: shoes, clothes, family photos, work tools, Christmas ornaments, etc. Her worldly possessions were spread out in the yard around her house trying to dry.
Her house was stripped to its core, but even some of those boards were starting to rot and in certain parts of the house we could see outside through the walls.
As I left for the day, I asked Cathy what she needed. A hotel stay for a night or two would be nice, she said. So I went to a nearby hotel and got her a few nights there.
“What else can I help with?” I asked when I called her to tell her about the hotel reservation.
“Could you do some laundry?” she asked. So I piled up the back of my car with items she picked from different piles in her back yard. They aren’t things she needs right now, but will someday when she returns home. Until then, I will store the laundry at my home.
Every time I look at Cathy’s items I am reminded that she and so many others are not back home yet. And it will remind me that Jesus calls us to be present to others at all times. God knew exactly where I needed to be on that Saturday, and thankfully, I listened.
Enedelia J. Obregón is a parishioner of St. Thomas More Parish in Austin. She has been a freelance writer for the Catholic Spirit for nearly 20 years.