By Beth Zarate, Catholic Charities West Virginia President and Chief Executive Officer Recently, when delivering a meal route for the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center, I encountered a neighbor outside his home anxiously waiting for me – the volunteer with lunch. As a last minute “jump in” volunteer, not familiar with the neighborhoods, I was running late and saw his relief to see me arrive. He told me that his neighbor is an amputee; every day he watched for her lunch to arrive, took it in his home and heated it up when she was ready to eat. He then delivered a warm lunch and the day’s news to his neighbor. He stole my heart with his kindness – truly what Christ meant when he said, “Love your neighbor.” As we celebrate Ash Wednesday, this encounter reminds me that our lives are short, and we must live them to the fullest. We are called to be incredible, yet we know we are broken. The ashes we receive remind us that we are sinners, but the cross lets us know that there is a God who fully believes in us. At Catholic Charities, we often begin our meetings with a prayer. I am always stilled by one line: “Grant us wisdom to respond effectively to the needs of your people with grace and compassion.” I reflect on it often. “Who we serve” depends on where we connect with someone in his or her life journey. At times in our lives, we may need a handout, but at other times, we can be the hand up that another person needs. “How we serve” is the meaningful question. From those who seek us, to our funders, donors, community partners and parishes, the expectations are varied and vast. Guided by Catholic Social Teaching and our Gospel call to be the hands and feet of Christ, we strive to serve with compassion and caritas. Our professional staff is held to best practices in many areas, including social work, educational standards, children’s services and immigration law. Our resources are limited and sometimes restricted; yet we carry the hope of serving the most vulnerable of our citizens. Our goal is to engage the Catholic community and beyond in our mission and work. My experience with the neighbor’s kindness reminds me that there are thousands in our community who are working quietly to serve God and one another. These faithful servants multiply the effectiveness of Catholic Charities. As we reflect on Ash Wednesday and the intimacy of Lent, let us remember that the Gospel call to serve is our privilege. They will know we are Christians by our love. To learn more about Catholic Charities West Virginia, visit www.CatholicCharitiesWV.org. The Mission of Catholic Charities West Virginia: Guided by God’s love, Catholic Charities collaborates with community partners, parishes and families to provide caring and compassionate services to people in need and work toward lasting and meaningful change.