To celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius, we asked students at Jesuit schools on the legacy of St. Ignatius.
By Chase Llewellyn
July 28, 2020 — There is a homeless man named Stephen who stands on a street corner a couple of miles from my house. For the most part, no one gives him money or talks to him, and I felt the same way. Often, unhoused people are viewed as beggars that use the money for drugs. This stereotype shaped my view of men like Stephen.
I gave Stephen money a few times, and every time he would say, “God bless you.” At first, I thought nothing of it. However, as I kept hearing him say the same phrase, it started to change my perspective. It is in our lowest times that we tend to blame God and put God in the back seat.
However, Stephen has nothing and still keeps his faith in God. My relationship with this man started to change. We started to have short conversations when I handed him money. Eventually, I would look forward to seeing him. He recognized my car and my face. We started building a relationship.
When the state fair was in town, he asked me about it. He was worried about the entrance fee. I gave Stephen the money and told him that I want to hear all about it. The next time I saw him, he was full of joy. He exclaimed how much he loved it. For the first time, I felt like I actually made a difference to him.
When I didn’t have any change to give Stephen, I would feel bad. I would just wave and keep going. But one time, when I was stopped at the light with no money, he came up to the car as usual.
I rolled down the window and said, “Sorry Stephen, I don’t have any money or snacks on me today.” His response filled me with so many different emotions and changed my view forever. He replied, “Man, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I know you try to help me, and you’ve done more than you know. You’re the only one that spends the time to talk to me and that means everything.”
That’s when I understood what it truly means to be “a man for others.” This moment will stay with me forever. All that time, I thought the impact I had was based on money, when it was really about the relationship we built. I thought that I was the one helping his life. In reality, Stephen was changing mine.
You can’t put a value on personal relationships. It’s the small things like conversations and friendships that make the biggest differences in the lives of others.
This lesson is very similar to the way in which St. Ignatius had an impact on his followers. He built his following by speaking personally with them and creating connections. Ignatius is the true exemplar of what “a man for others” entails. He made his biggest impact by changing the spiritual lives of his followers.
I need to let Stephen know how much of an impact he has had on my life.
Chase Llewellyn is a student at Loyola Blakefield. Many thanks to Brendan O’Kane and Loyola Blakefield for sharing Chase’s story.