Dora Fulton, while on vacation, went to the State of Oklahoma to visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial in 1997. She was alone, a stranger far from home, and decided to stop in at a small Catholic church for Sunday morning Mass. The members of the church family greet Dora warmly and their readily acceptance of her quickly dispelled the deep uncertainty and loneliness she had been carrying with her following her visit to the memorial site.
For the next four years, Dora continued to travel to Oklahoma City to visit the memorial then that small church. She always remembered the special welcome, warmth and friendly spirit of the parishioners. When she died in 2004 at the age of 101, her attorney informed the church’s pastor that the elderly woman bequeathed her entire estate to the church to be used only for its well-being and benefit.
“On a Sunday in 1997 when Miss Fulton was deeply saddened, racked with uncertainty and very lonely, she stopped into your church to find immediate acceptance, loving embrace and peace among your parishioners,” the attorney wrote, “You took Miss Fulton in, according her with no consideration that was unknown by anyone in the church. Miss Fulton never forgot your church’s kindness and your parishioners’ warmth towards her”.
This story should make one stop and think. Is there a stranger in my church, school or workplace? Is there a new family in the neighborhood? If so, maybe that person is too shy, so lonely and in need of a friend, a comforter?
To be remembered in someone’s will for a kind act or gesture once shown is rewarding. However, our greater reward should be and, in fact, must be that we are doing what Jesus Christ Himself commanded each person who bears the name of “Christian”. That is, to reach out to the hurting, the lonely, the stranger with warmth and acceptance no matter who that person may be. For that person IS Jesus Christ Himself!
Dora puts me in mind of many things, but maybe more than any, the sad reality that lonliness remains the walls in which many live.
Dora, in a sense, is all of us. Hungry for visibility. Longing for love's touch, for friendship's voice. Thank you for reminding us we've Jesus' hands and feet, and as such, we need to go and touch as He would.
Dora isn't just visitors, but the very parishoners filling the pew each week, I fear.