Have Faith: Taking care

Matthew 25 hits home, especially during the holidays.


“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  –Matthew 25: 35-36

’Tis nearly the season for community suppers, and news about them is beginning to trickle in — Grace Church began serving last Friday, and I can attest to tasty baked lemon chicken with mashed potatoes and carrots, and homemade banana bread. Father Mike Nagle reports that Good Shepherd Parish begins community suppers Thursday, Dec. 10, with takeout beginning at 5 pm. In both cases, you need to call ahead by the day before, so folks know how much to cook. Good Shepherd will continue serving on the second and fourth Thursdays in January, February, and March. The coronavirus has forced the giving community to rethink how they can feed the hungry this year. The meals are packed for takeout, but still just as tasty and nourishing for body and spirit. If you’d like a meal from Grace Church on Friday, with pickup on Woodlawn Avenue between 5 and 6 pm, then call 508-693-0332 by Thursday. For Good Shepherd Parish’s Thursday meals at St. Augustine’s Church, call by the day before (Wednesday), 507-684-6270.

The holidays remind us of our responsibility to help those who have less than we do. The Island seems to have a great support system in place to address feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and even housing the homeless these days. I know it couldn’t happen without the generosity of the community and creative thinkers who live here year-round and seasonally. So right now, when volunteers are in the throes of it, please know how much you are appreciated.

Every year I think that I won’t go crazy at Christmas, I won’t spend too much, and I will appreciate the joy of the season more if I spend less. But then as the holidays get closer, I think about how much joy a gift can bring, no matter the size, and I want to buy something for everybody. I love knowing how much a gift means to the person receiving it. And giving is so rewarding that I wish I could do a whole lot more of it.

This year, though, seems different. Everyone has been through so much this year, and many people have lost loved ones through the pandemic. Everyone has had to change their way of navigating everyday events like work, grocery shopping, traveling, even exercise — pretty much everything. It’s taken a toll on us, but it’s also forced us to look inward, where we find that we can adapt and adjust our schedules, our work environment, and even the way we greet each other when we run into a friend we haven’t seen in a long time. Who hasn’t met a friend in the grocery store aisle and struggled not to run up and hug the person? You have to literally put the brakes on and laugh with each other, maybe bump elbows if you dare to get that close. We’re all waiting for the time when we can take off our masks, smile broadly at each other, and give and take when it comes to embracing.

Thinking along those lines led me to look up the word “agape.” I laughed because, of course, the first thing I saw on Google was “agape: wide open, especially in wonder.” I was looking for a more religious definition, as in unconditional love given freely — the ah-ga-pay pronunciation. A love that has no rules or stipulations, one that is committed to the well-being of others. That’s the kind of love I think runs through the Island community, and it’s very, very special. Sort of like the love a mother has for her children.

For all the doctrine and dogma and varying expressions, agape seems like a common denominator in religions. If we love rather than hate, love rather than envy, love rather than have spite, love rather than insist we’re right, love rather than maintain ego, love rather than fear, and we begin this with intention within our lives, will our families, our friends, our communities truly benefit? It sure would be nice to find out.

All the folks who cook for the Community Suppers, who run the meals out to you, the ones who staff the Harbor Homes winter shelter, the people who donate to the Food Pantry, M.V. Food Baskets, the Red Stocking Fund, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger, those folks are practicing agape. They’re putting others ahead of themselves. And look at all they accomplish.

As for gifts this year, maybe the gift of time is the most important. We’ve all had to slow down to some degree, and rethink what used to be ordinary things we took for granted. You know the old Harry Chapin song, “Cats in the Cradle.” What the son and father both wanted in the end was time with each other. And that kind of gift doesn’t cost a dime. I bet that time spent will be even more satisfying than a video game, a new leather purse, or a stocking filled with trinkets. This seems like the year to try it. It feels like we’re being more gentle with each other this year, more in tune even. And for that, I am grateful.


Harbor Homes winter shelter is open at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. The overnight shelter will be open through the end of March. All guests staying the night have to check in by 6 pm and must exit the building by 9 am. The day shelter offers three free meals a day, and extended operating hours for individuals in need. Dinner is served at 6 pm, breakfast each morning at 8 am, and lunch from noon to 2 pm.

If you have news for Have Faith, please send it to connie@mvtimes.com.