‘… and a child shall lead them’

Isaiah 11:6 reads: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”

This Biblical passage doesn’t really refer to a child leading adults by example. It is more appropriately understood as a prophetic vision of the peace promised by the coming of the Lord. However, the following true story is one of a child’s example being worthy of emulation by any adult who hears it.

During the course of an ordinary day, the Catholic Charities Appeal office is often inundated with envelopes. Some arrive with very generous donations that have been prompted by a pastor’s sermon or the testimony of a parishioner. We like to think that the effort to publish compelling brochure text and evocative photographs will motivate thousands to join in the annual Appeal. We spend considerable time and resources producing a video that illustrates in very human terms the conditions and circumstances that impel our work. Once in a while a single envelope makes one stop, reflect, and shed a tear of gratitude for the simple act of generosity we are privileged to encounter. This is the story of one such envelope.

Skyler Baker is a nine-year-old boy living in Harwich. He went to Mass recently at St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth along with his parents, Colleen and Bob. During the course of the Mass, Father George Bellenoit preached about the start of the annual Catholic Charities campaign, and introduced the video as a way to deepen his flock’s awareness of the needs in their community for the healing power of Catholic social teaching in action.

Skyler watched the video and was touched by the example of the chaplains and others who reached out to help the sick, the hungry, or the lonely. After thinking about the message and discussing it with his parents, Skyler made a decision.

Recently, Skyler had begun receiving an allowance from his parents. Three dollars a week with a plan to divide that into three parts: a dollar to spend each week, a dollar to save, and one dollar set aside to help others. This practice started in late March and by early May, Skyler had $7 set aside for charity. Skyler told his parents that his first donation would be to help the people he saw on the video at St. Pius X. Now, his parents had already made their decision to support Catholic Charities and they could have simply enclosed his money with theirs. He decided to send his separately and that is where we come in.

Skyler’s handwritten note, reproduced on the cover of this week’s Anchor, arrived on a Tuesday. My assistant brought it in to me because she thought it was a unique gesture. I opened it and read his simple but profound words:

“Hi, my name is Skyler Baker. I am 9 years old. I’d like to use my allowance money to help out.”

Over the course of the Appeal, we will be overwhelmed by the generous responses of so many. Gifts of $50,000, even $100,000, and many gifts or pledges that will total close to $5 million are expected. However, I can tell you with all sincerity, no gift this year will teach me more about our mission than the $7 donated by this young man. It is a lesson in goodness and charity and the deeply Spiritual desire to help one’s neighbor that makes me proud to toil in this vineyard.

Skyler is a regular kid. He likes playing Little League baseball, mountain climbing, nature and science. He is, in the words of his dad, “A boy who marches to his own drummer. He is his own man.”

He has obviously learned some valuable lessons from his parents and from his CCD classes. Colleen expressed their appreciation for the lessons being taught there: “We feel lucky to be at St. Pius X and with Father George. They all do a great job teaching the kids.”

I hope as the Appeal moves forward, many people will learn of this young boy’s decision to help and emulate his act of generosity. The Appeal is dependent on all our faithful to listen, absorb, and act upon the call to help. In this extraordinary Year of Mercy, may we be witness to the actions of this young man and respond in our own way. May a child lead us.

Anchor columnist Jim Campbell is director of the diocesan Development Office/Catholic Charities Appeal/Foundation to Advance Catholic Education.

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