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Washing Feet for Soles and Souls

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By Kellie Ross (Jan 6, 2007)
It was a beautiful day to visit Washington, D.C. The temperature was in the 70s, and the volunteers in our Divine Mercy ministry — The Missionaries of Our Lady of Mercy, based in Bristow, Va. — were anxiously packing the cars with supplies to carry into the city, where each month we feed and give clothing to the homeless.

On the way into Washington, we prayed the Rosary for the people we were about to meet. What we found when we arrived was more than we had prayed for.

Upon arriving in the park, many of the homeless gathered around our cars looking to be the first to get food and clothing. We invited them to join us to help set up stations for serving the others. Although they appeared a bit surprised, they cheerfully agreed, and in a few moments, we were serving around 200 people beans and hotdogs, oranges, homemade cookies, and water.

In another area of the park, we began to wash the feet of those who had finished eating, giving each person who stopped by a new pair of socks to wear. The stories they shared were both moving and inspirational. We met a few people who had been on the streets for years and some who had only been there a few days. For these people, the change to homelessness brought particular sadness.

One individual stopped to get his feet washed. Looking at his feet, I began to pour water and lotion on them, and he started to cry.

"Am I hurting you?" I asked.

"No," he replied, "I just never thought I would be getting my feet washed in the park by a stranger."

Hearing his story about how drug addiction had led to his current situation, I tried to comfort him and told him that God's mercy was for him "especially." After I had finished washing his feet, I told him to wait there a few moments and I would go to my car to get something for him.

I searched through my car looking for something — anything that would give him hope. For the most part, all I could find were French fries and Cheerios. Then, looking at my console, I saw an old crucifix that I would hold while I drove. I knew this gentleman wasn't Catholic, but I didn't care. He needed God, and he needed Him now.

I walked back over to the bench, and already Fr. Jack was consoling him. With his arm around him, Fr. Jack told him that God's mercy was for everyone and that God had a plan for him as well.

I then knelt down and said, "This crucifix was mine, and now it is yours. Not only do you take God with you, but me as well. No matter where you go, as long as you take this crucifix with you, a part of me will be with you."

We both cried.

That is what our ministry is about. It's not numbers. It's not the food (truly). It's about seeing Christ in those we are fortunate to meet in our life.

That Sunday, I saw Jesus walking along the road to Calvary. He asked me, "Who will wash My feet?"

I answered, "I will."

Will you?

Kellie Ross is director of operations of the House of Mercy, in Manassas, Va., a free clothing store for the homeless and needy. The store can be reached at 1-877-BE-MERCY.

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Therese Rosario - Jan 10, 2007

God Bless you Kellie for the good work you are doing. I was very moved reading your article. Just as you saw Jesus in the man whose feet you washed, I saw Jesus in you.