Lumen Magazine_Winter 2020

And the gift that we’re giving is relationship. It’s not the thing we’re doing but the relationship – contact with our children, with the people receiving the meals. We’re inviting them into a family.” “[T]he gift that we’re giving is relationship. It’s not the thing we’re doing but the relationship.” Jeff credits his time at St. Thomas in helping to form his approach to family life. “We heard [the term ‘mission’] a lot at St. Thomas and in Catholic circles,” he remembers, “thinking of the family as a place of mission. ... Sometimes as Catholics I think we can be thinking ‘we’re not out there enough, we need to be out there evangelizing.’ ...We started looking for opportunities to serve the poor as a family. Adoption was another opportunity for our family to be on a mission, bringing people into the life we already have.” “Sometimes when the [at-risk] boys come over there’s this temptation to entertain,” says Jackie, “They’re 15, 16 and there’s a lot going on, but then I remember, no, this is our home and I’m going to cook and you can join me. Or Jeff will play basketball with them. We’re going to be here for you.”

Jackie adds, “It’s what Dorothy Day used to say about ‘presence.’ If I’m serving you soup but I’m not looking you in the eye, I should have stayed in my room. It’s not about the doing or what we accomplish, it’s about acknowledging that you have dignity and being present to you in that moment. I want to listen to you, to hear you, to look at you and through that presence, you experience Christ.” RELATIONSHIP AND CONVERSION Living this model of family life is shaping how their kids interact with others. When delivering meals, it will often be the children who notice someone on the street in need. Jackie says, “The kids will say, ‘Hey, Mom, we have two milks left and there’s someone over there who really needs it.’ There’s no fear in them, instead there’s an urgency to meet the needs they see. ... It connects them back to the reality that our life is a privilege and a gift. ... They are learning to understand and accept the differences between us and not try to make everybody the same.” Jackie’s Cuban, Jeff’s German, their adopted children are African American and several of their

children have special needs. The Walds are very open to discussions about differences in race, especially with their own children. “It can be a real stumbling block down the road if you ignore the fact that you look different,” says Jeff. “For good or for ill, the country that we live in is very divided and they’re going to have something to say about race to [our children]. So, we talk about it and just try to normalize it.” This model of family life isn’t easy. In fact, it requires constant, ever- deepening conversion on behalf of Jackie and Jeff most of all. “I used to live for 7 p.m.,” says Jackie, “or whatever the bedtime was because then it was our time, but there’s something that’s not in the right order when you’re living like that. ... [So] often what I want is comfort, what I want is ease, a cold dark room alone. But I can meet the Lord in that tension, it brings me back to him and I’m grounded again.”

Jackie Wald assembling food and clothing donations.

St. Thomas Lumen Winter 2020 Page 5

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