When asked to write about Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates (LEFSA) I came up with a title for the essay. I call it “Little Miracles.” Read on, hopefully you’ll agree.
A couple of weeks after I moved out of the shelter and into my apartment, I was confined to a wheelchair. One night while coming home, a lady smiled at me and said: “you need LEFSA.” Somehow she knew it wasn’t water in my water bottle, that it was sherry wine instead.
When I went to the hospital to get a hip replacement, she came to visit. She even told the doctor to give me a hospital bed, something I needed badly. After my surgery I attended my first Leadership meeting. At that meeting I met a woman who asked me to get up, join the festivities and dance. Still mending from the hip replacement, I declined. Later I felt sorry for refusing to dance and not telling her about my condition; the woman was so sweet she made me feel guilty. As I later came to learn, that lady was Sister Dorothy.
Over time I also joined LEFSA arts ancd crafts. I became good friends with Ann, Daisy and Feet. Jackie was there too. When I got ill again, I had a group of friends.
It seems that when I needed a hip replacement I self medicated with ibuprofen. Ibuprofen killed my kidneys. At least I had my friends, who even accompanied me to my hospital appointments. The day of my mother’s funeral I was in a hospital, and my new friends went in my stead.
Five months later I was on dialysis every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, three times a week every week. When I started dialysis, for the first month I went five days a week to get rid of some of the extra water. I missed that month’s Leadership Study Day. I came back a good 40 pounds lighter and felt a whole lot better. When I came back, Sister Dorothy, with a tear in her eye, grabbed me and gave a prayer of thanks for having helped me so much.
I missed a few retreats, which at that time started on Sundays. I couldn’t miss my Monday dialysis. James suggested I take the railroad to the retreat, which I did. When I finally got to the retreat I was racing to catch some lunch. Everyone was so happy to see me, I could hardly make it to the buffet table. All of that love and hugs made a moment I can never forget.
Not too long after that, Sister Dorothy and James asked us to come up with a way to commemorate people who help sponsor our program. I had a little experience with poetry, so that was my contribution. The day I was to read my poem aloud there was a full crowd. I stood at the podium, palms sweaty, and a bit shaky. I started reading. I wasn’t looking at the audience, but I could hear the murmur of enjoyment in the crowd. When I finished, people were clapping wildly. They started shouting, “Read it again!” I looked at Sr. Dorothy and James and they nodded in unison. So everyone got their encore. Another moment etched in my memory.
Five years after starting dialysis I received a kidney transplant. I was blessed with a gift most patients don’t get. I’ll never forget October 18, 2011 when Montefiore [Medical Center] called me at 2 AM. I couldn’t get dressed fast enough. But I had to call my lady and I had to call LEFSA. Of course no one was in the office at 2 AM, but I knew the answering machine would record my message for all to hear. The day after my operation I called and talked to Sister Dorothy. She said she regretted being ill and couldn’t visit. She told me she loved me. I could feel her love and I was moved, spiritually and physically. I told her, “I love you too, very much.”
Just recently, at the 2015 Christmas Party, I read an anniversary poem about Catholic Charities Education Outreach Program (EOP). Ms. K, the leader of EOP, asked me to be the keynote speaker of the 2015 graduation ceremony. When George Horton introduced me, he said “Tonight for the first time in the history of EOP, our speaker will give up a brief bio, followed by some poetry.” As I recited my poetry, again I heard murmurs. “Wow, umm…” this new audience was moved by my poetry. After we went upstairs to eat, I had at least 10 people take me to the side to tell me how much they appreciated my verses.
These are just a few magical moments. I could spend all night writing about special things that have been a part of my life through Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates.
– John Wesley Mitchell