The following was printed in the January/February edition of the Orthodox Heritage. It was taken from book Family Life, written by Elder Paisios the Athonite. The first line of this story really hit me…
Below are two of my favorite book on Elder Paisios’ life and writings.
Tender Care for our Neighbors Helps the Family
People today will have as many problems as the amount of material goods they acquire. They neither thank God for His benefactions, nor notice the grief of their fellow man that they may provide some kind of charity. They squander what they have and don’t even think their neighbor who does not even have enough to eat. How can the Grace of God come after such things? The head of a family therefore must manage his things to set aside something in order to give alms. He should say to his wife and children that in such and such a place there is a certain sick, homeless person, or some poor family who is in great need. If they don’t have money to give, let them say, “Let’s at least give a Christian book, as we have so many.” In giving to those who have need, they do well both to the needy and to their family.
In Russia the poor faithful are in such great need! I once gave a little box of incense to a Russian priest and told him: “a humble gift.”
“You really consider this to be a poor gift?” he says to me. “Our incense is…Cough-cough.”
And here in Greece, how greatly the refugees suffer! In Halkidiki I saw a refugee, a tile setter, who made only a dollar a square meter. He said, “Glory to be, O God, that we have bread.” For that reason, when a certain contractor told me that in his line of work they were burdened by many sins, I told him,”If you will support those refugees and help them financially, you will be unburdened of your sins. They have nowhere to live. Compared to them you are like Onassis.”
In order for us to practice the virtues, God allows there to be the sick, the poor, etc. He could have taken care of everyone, both the sick and the poor, but then we would have had the illusion that we were virtuous people. For example, we would have said that we were all merciful while we are not, whereas now our works make clear our virtues. Glory to God that people exist to sacrifice themselves for their fellow man. I knew someone who, as soon as he was released from the military, accepted to be unjustly convicted of a great crime in order to save a family. He neither considered the ridicule nor his future.
Everywhere IHG how God takes care to ensure that at least one member of each family has faith and piety, that the others will be helped! I knew a family in Konitsa in which, all but one person was completely indifferent towards the Church. Only one daughter was different. As soon as she heard the churchbell her feet flew; she would leave halfway through her chores and go to church. Moreover, even when the Germans came, when the church caretaker rang the bell for the people took flee their homes, she instead went to church for Vespers!
Although she was also very charitable, her parents were totally stingy. Her father, instead of eating food, would eat a dry rusk which he would dip in a little water; and her mother was very tightfisted! Even when her children had good jobs and were well-off, to light a fire she would grab a smoldering ember from the fireplace and light it up with bug spray, so as not to waste a match! For a coffee pot she used an old tin can. When I was at Stomiou monastery, because her mother loved me so much, if her daughter wanted to take something from their house to give to the poor and couldn’t do it secretly, she would say: “mother, the monk wants this.” “Give it, give it to him,” she would tell her. Only for the monks what her mother not get angry.
Even during the German occupation the girl secretly helped the poor. She would take me from the family pantry, carry it to the nail, grind it, and then distributed to the poor families. Once she was caught by her mother who grabbed her. She then prayed, “My God, help me to find a job and to give all my earnings as alms.” The next day a certain establishment called for her. Oh, the joy she had! She kept her vow too: she didn’t even buy herself a pair of socks from her wages; she gave it all as alms. How many people now say to her: “God save you, and bless the bones of your parents! “You see, through her alms, God even took care of her mother.