By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico
I was a little saddened to hear that Father Benedict Begin passed away on Sept. 27. At first the name didn’t ring a bell, but then I thought “Father Ben.”
Father Ben had been one of my favorite priests, only I didn’t realize it back then, when he was pastor of St. Helen’s Catholic Church in the 1970s and 1980s.
I probably went a couple of decades without even thinking about Father Ben after he left Portales. The timing of his death was somewhat coincidental, though, because Father Ben’s name has come up a couple of times recently in conversations I’ve had with my daughter Laura about my teenage years.
It was just a few weeks ago I told Laura about how my sister Becky and I were active in all of our church youth group’s fund-raisers one year. We didn’t miss a single bake sale or car wash. We were raising money to go to a conference in Albuquerque. When it came time for the conference, however, Mom didn’t let us go. Father Ben stepped in and offered to pay our way himself, but Mom still refused to let us go. I don’t remember why, but I’m sure she had a good reason.
I had long forgotten the disappointment of not going to this conference. What stood out in my mind as I recalled this experience, though, was the kind gesture by Father Ben. Of course, it wasn’t because he offered to pay our way that made him special. This was just one of many examples of him going out of his way to serve others.
Priests, preachers, pastors and ministers have a tremendous impact on the people they serve and any acts of kindness on their part can produce lasting effects.
This memory also got me started thinking of how people are often willing to help you out, sometimes, when you do fall short of cash. It can create for some embarrassing situations too.
When I was working on my bachelor’s degree at Eastern New Mexico University, our journalism professor, Bill Sheridan, took myself and a couple of students to Arizona for a job fair for minority student journalists. I guess I didn’t do a good job concealing I was low on funds. We stopped at a restaurant and the other two girls, Dora and Patricia, and Mr. Sheridan all ordered meat entrees. And then there was me. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.
I remember eying the prices on the menu, trying to find the least expensive item. Although the grilled cheese sandwich was only about 30 or 40 cents cheaper than a burger, I still went with the cheese.
Later when we made a pit stop and the other girls were in the store, the professor pulled me aside and offered to help me out if I was low on funds. I was embarrassed that I had made it obvious, but I told him I didn’t need any help. I had enough cash … and I just happened to like grilled cheese.
I was later relieved, of course, when we got to the conference and found out that all of our meals were included for the two-day event.
On the way back home, I got to splurge and order roasted chicken.
As I look back on these two different and yet similar situations that involved a lack of funds on my part, it makes me think about how I am often in a situation where I can help people as well, and even later on perhaps, when I become a professor myself.
It’s hard to turn over your hard-earned cash to panhandlers on the street nowadays because, sadly, you don’t know who really needs it and who doesn’t. But when you’re in a group setting where you know the people because you go to school with them, work with them or live by them, you’re going to help each other out. And you know the saying, it’s better to give than to receive.
As I look back, though, it would not have been so bad back then to receive, to generously accept someone’s help had I needed it. The key would have been and still is to pay it forward and return the favor to someone else in that position someday.