Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps member Madonna Enwe shares how a particular encounter with a client at the Refugee Service Center at Catholic Charities moved her to compassion, generosity, and a humble recognition of her own limitations.

As I work at the Refugee Service Center at Catholic Charities, one of my most difficult moments  is when I realize how little I feel that I can help someone.

When I attended mass before work one morning, the priest talked about using our gifts to serve God and other people. I wondered what gifts I had that could be of service to someone. A few hours later, a lady and a social worker walked into the Catholic Charities office, and her case was presented to me so I could determine if she was eligible to receive government benefits. This woman had just been released—with her three children—from a refugee camp; she had a temporary shelter but no assistance for food or medical insurance. Unfortunately, we discovered that she was not eligible to receive benefits yet and so could not be helped by our program.

Though I had encountered people in her predicament before, I felt that her case was more desperate: she was the sole caretaker of her children, could barely speak English, and did not have any close relatives around her. When this woman started crying, I discerned in my heart that I had to do something.  

In her native language, she told me bits of her story and about her current situation. I decided to give her some of the food donations my office had received, a gift card, and the cash I had with me. I wish I could have given her more, but I did not have the means. We shared contact information and I said she could call me if she needed help or wanted to talk with someone.

The next time she called me, it was about one of her children in the hospital. At that point, I got scared. I realized how heavy her burden was and how little I could do for her. I wish I had better gifts that could be of great service to her, but I was still grateful for God who gave me the spirit of  compassion the day she walked into my office, to give her all that I did.

I pray for that lady and her family every day, and I hope that God may send someone who can help them in the ways that I cannot.

I also pray that God may give me more opportunities every day to share his compassion and mercy with the people I encounter, no matter how heavy their burdens are.  

Reflection Question: when you find yourself unable to give financially, how can you still give of your time and love to those around you in need?