As the holidays approach, and i go into the stores with their mountains worth of anything and everything we need, my heart keeps skipping off to Peguyville! Let me explain…
Every Labor Day throughout much of my life i spent a good part of my day glued to the television, following the dynamo, Jerry Lewis, in his ongoing battle against Muscular Dystrophy. i even went there one year, when he brought his telethon to New York City. There i met John and Yoko among many other celebrities who came to help Jerry and “Jerry’s Kids.”
But in recent years i fell in love with a different Gerry – and “Gerry’s Kids.” All that it took was a ten minute viewing of just one of the dozens of films by this ex-Hollywood-producer and ex-atheist, Gerry Straub, who in finding NEW EYES of FAITH found with them, through them, thousands of the world’s poor. i have written of Gerry in previous blogs.
His two saints who helped to open his eyes, Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, told him LOUD n CLEAR that “If you’re out to find God, you simply need to find and serve the poor.” Quite easy, in a way, as the poor are everywhere; NO ONE HAS AN EXCUSE! But, Gerry, he went and found the poorest of the poor, made films about them to identify their location for all the world to see – and fell so in love with them that he has finally settled down with them, trading Pasadena, California, for Peguyville, Haiti, the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere.
Like i said, Gerry and his Kids shook my very soul from the first moment we met. i will never be the same! Tell me, when was the last time you had chills up your spine while nibbling on a Saltine or a Ritz cracker? It happens to me all the time, since i followed Gerry through his lens into the bush of Africa. The Landrover stopped just in time before running over a “lump” in the road. Getting out for a look, Gerry found SAM, a seven year old only a tad bigger than his camera, weighing less than 20 pounds. Polio and malnutrition had left him there, just feet away from his little sister, Esther, in the same or worse state.
When Gerry looked up AT ME from these two perfect images of Jesus, and he asked ME, “WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?”, he left me with a haunt that has never left me. But then, just when i thought i was cooked, out of the bush appears Jane, the older sister. She had just hiked who knows how many miles to and from the closest waterhole, bringing water to bathe and refresh her babies – perhaps before they die. Babies, yes, for she is now their mother, although did i mention Jane’s age? She was a wise, old 8! Gerry and team watched as she bathed, carried, and placed her siblings under a clean blanket. Then, thrilled to have some crackers from the visitors, she fed them until they were coming back to life. Only after that did she treat herself to one.
Really!! When was the last time you were covered in goosebumps while eating, say, a grape? It happens to my buddy, Gerry, and me all the time.
Gerry took care of those angels, saw that they were in good hands, then moved on…and on…and on…until Haiti. There he was so captivated that he just had to stay. Thousands upon thousands of children tug at his heart and soul every day, and so he has decided to open Santa Chiara’s Center to care for them, even though this means saying Goodbye to Hollywood forever and truly living by the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us TODAY our daily bread…”
Gerry and his Kids, Sam, Esther, Jane, kids all over the globe, and especially the Haitians, many of whom are just called “Baby,” as they never even got the dignity of a name, they have been all instructing me in the Wondrous Art of ThanksLiving. They have invited me at any time to go and join them, and i wish that i could. Until i can, half my heart lies in Peguyville. i will work to help them from far away and to spread their message of Great Joy with so little. i will tremble as i nibble a Ritz, and for me every day will be Thanksgiving Day – thanks to Gerry Straub!
ThanksGiving can never be enough; it must be ThanksLiving, or nothing!
Gerry has a wonderful website, named after the common greeting of St. Francis. paxetbonumcomm.org: Here you can read more of this wonderful man’s journey, purchase some of his many books or films, or make a contribution to THE KIDS. Please do! This is a charity where every penny will go immediately to work.