"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man
says he has faith but has not works?" (James
As Christians, we are called into action with Jesus'
command that we love one another. Mother Teresa is the perfect example. She
served the poor and forgotten with a tender compassion and humility.
You may think, "Mother Teresa was an extraordinary
person. She was a nun, and she chose
the life of service as a vocation." You might also think, "But that's not me! What can I do?"
I've been blessed to know many ordinary people who do
extraordinary things. Whether it is the random act of kindness or a more focused
cause or ministry, they (and we) seek opportunities to "be Christ" in
the story of a man who turned the ordinary into an extraordinary mission.
It all began one day in February a few years ago in Minnesota. Wayne
Waldera shares his story:
"I'm in no hurry for the winter season, given that
Fall is my favorite season and the World Series was just around the corner,"
said Wayne. "It was during this time that I
noticed my feet were very cold. I didn't think too much of it given the sub
zero temperatures we were experiencing. But then I started feeling
tremendous pain in my toes. One morning my wife Debra took a look at my feet. They
were clay in color and I just about hit the roof when she tried to touch my
toes. That night we decided to soak them in some warm water. I could barely
stand it! As Debra was drying my
feet, she discovered purple and red spots on the bottom of my toes."
went to the Urgent Care. The doctor recommended two things.
"First, I had to go see my primary doctor and second, I had to go
and get some nice heavy, yet soft socks to wear. We
stopped at the mall on the way home. I
found really cool gray socks with a red strip on the top.
The primary doctor referred
Wayne to a specialist and he finally received a diagnosis: chilblains, "a
cutaneous disorder characterized by the development of cold-induced
erythrocyanotic skin lesions."
"The nice heavy socks that Debra and I bought at the
mall... they were a bust," Wayne recalls. "They were too small and tight for my aching toes." Then it
occurred to him. During the winter months at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, they
have a drive to collect socks. Rather than go back and exchange the socks, Wayne thought,
"This would be as good a place as any to drop them off". He
knew that somebody would be able to use them.
"So off to morning Mass I went with this pair of socks."
Wayne would often see the homeless
standing at the corner of St. Anthony Avenue West and
Marion Street, carrying their signs. As he drove
down Marion Street toward the Cathedral, Wayne whispered a prayer. "Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see your face."
Wayne stopped for the red light. And as he waited, he looked around. And then there
was the Encounter... "I glanced at the homeless man standing there. I
looked at the light. It's still red. The Lord said to me, 'I am standing right
here, don't you see me?' I rolled my window down and motioned for the
gentleman to come over." The gentleman crossed the empty lane and
approached the car. Wayne handed him a pair of socks. With
his hands over his chest, he told Wayne, "This is exactly what I need. Thank you and God bless
Wayne gulped and said, "You're welcome; God bless
"This was the very first time I ever gave something to
a homeless person standing on the street corner," he said.
It occurred to him that this was not an annoying person standing there on
the corner. At that moment, he realized that this man was Christ in the
When he got to the Cathedral,
Wayne entered the Cana Chapel. He
couldn't take his eyes off the Crucifix. The pain in his toes reminded him of
the time he and Debra went on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land two years earlier. While walking through the Stations of the Cross, they were
asked to carry Christ's cross at the 5th Station.
As he sat there in the Chapel,
"Open my ears, Lord. Help me to hear your voice. Open my heart,
Lord. Help me to love like you." And
then it hit him...
By the time Mass started, he knew he was going to step up
his Almsgiving. "We were right in the midst of the season of Lent. My
Spiritual Director confirmed that my prayer life was on target. Debra and I have
been fasting from meat every Friday since our Pilgrimage. But in my heart, I
knew that I was coming up short with Almsgiving." At
that instant, Wayne made a decision. "I was going to purchase socks and give them away on the
Cursillo weekend, we learn about the transformation
that takes place once we open our hearts to Jesus. It's known as Metanoia, a
Greek word for a transformative change of heart.
We are also encouraged to ask ourselves a question: "When was I most
aware of Christ's presence and why?"
Wayne felt the presence of Christ
that morning, as he drove toward the Cathedral full of desire to help the
homeless. And this was reinforced as he prayed before the cross in the Cana
Chapel. Over dinner that night, Wayne told Debra all that happened earlier in the day.
The next day, he and Debra took their coupons and
cash and made the first of many purchases of white gold-toe socks.
"If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in
lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and
filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it
profit?' (James 2:16)
"Over these past months, I have been able to give many
socks away," said Wayne. "I have been blessed with many
repeat customers. And they are all very grateful." Wayne added that more often than not, their "Thank you" also comes with a
Another gentleman told Wayne that he stays at Dorothy Day, a Catholic Charities facility that provides
shelter to the homeless. "He
said that some nights he gets there too late for a bed and has to sleep on the
floor. He makes it a point to share the socks with 'other guys who need them
more that I do'. My little act of
kindness has empowered him to have an opportunity to share something tangible
with others!" Not only has
Wayne's work of mercy and act of kindness inspired others to "pay it
forward", it has had far-reaching effects. "I shared this story with
my fellow brother Knights of Columbus at our chapter at The Cathedral,"
explained Wayne. "They were very touched by the
story. They asked me to reach out to
the Dorothy Day center and see how we as a group could volunteer our time there." This experience has affected Wayne profoundly. "In the past, I would look right through the homeless on the
street corner. Now, since the
Encounter and the Metanoia, I'm disappointed when I can't give a pair of socks
away. Now I keep a bag of white gold-toe socks in the back seat of my car. I'm
ready and willing to roll down my window, see Christ in the flesh, and give some
socks away," said Wayne. "Most of their signs say,
'Anything will help'. For now, for
me; it's one pair of socks at a time."
experience reminds Wayne of the hymn, "Open My
Eyes", by Jesse Manibusan. On the day of the Encounter, at the
street corner and in the chapel, he had been praying for the Lord to open his
eyes, his ears, his heart. In learning to love his neighbor, Wayne came to
realize a simple, beautiful truth:
"We'll speak in new ways, and we'll
see God's face in places we've never known."
A dear friend of
Wayne's suffered a severe stroke a number of years ago.
"One of his many great lines is that 'Jesus didn't give me a stroke,
but He did use it as an opportunity'".
Even though Wayne's condition is not as serious, he could relate to his friend's words of wisdom.
"I know Jesus didn't give me chilblains, but He sure did use it as
And fortunately, the medication worked. He said that the
color of his toes is back to normal, the spots are gone, and they're good as
"So faith by itself, if it has no works,
is dead." (James 2:17)
This humble mission begun by Wayne Waldera has not only
helped to warm the feet of those in need, it warms hearts as well...