Gradually recovering from a bout with the flu, my arms still aching and almost too tired to type this blog entry, I find myself thinking once again of what it takes to be an effective agent of change.
Right this second, as I write, a friend of mine, Ferdi, is being celebrated at a funeral Mass. He died last week after a long battle with cancer. By his living witness, he taught us about courage, perseverance, and hope.
Additionally, he was an agent of change.
Several years ago, he became aware of how many homeless families there were in our area. He also learned about a church-based network that existed to help such desperate families. He thought that our parish should join the network and become part of the effort. After patiently pushing the idea through the thick resistance he encountered, we finally joined the IHN, the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
If I were to distill some guidelines for change agents from Ferdi's example, I'd pinpoint the following:
F = Focus: Focus on the need you see that must be addressed. Help others to see it too. Confront the fears that keep us from stepping up and facing the problem.
A = Assert: Arrange to speak with the people you must convert. Get on their agenda. Advocate for the needy. Argue with the inertia.
I = Insist: Don't take "No" for an answer. Insist that they see you. Inspire them to act. Encourage them to imagine the improvement they could bring about in the lives of others.
T = Trust: Trust in what you know is right. Don't waver. Don't forsake the mission even when it feels like nothing is going your way. Trust in truth.
H = Hope: Without hope, the darkness closes in. Ferdi knew this. And he never lost hope. Even in the darkest of times.
A friend of mine used to say of Ferdi that he knew how to "poke you with a stick," but do it in a way that made you glad later, glad that he did prod you to do the right thing.
A few years back, I had the opportunity to interview Ferdi for an article I was writing for the parish magazine. He said: "I grew up in the Philipines. My family used to feed the poor in our village. My family has always been giving. My parents used to take care of the poor. I learned that you have to be more than yourself in helping the poor. Follow in the footsteps of the Lord. Search for him by doing as He did. You will find Him."
Ferdi walked by faith. He was living proof that faith + good works equaled a life well spent.
Looking around at the many needs in our communities, it's time we started to apply such wisdom to the daunting task of improving this world. Let's get the ball rolling this year.
Pick your spot. Keep the faith.
~ This post is humbly dedicated to Ferdinand "Ferdi" Achacon, husband, father, disciple, agent of change.
Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday January 14, 2011.