Wednesday, August 10, 2016


This year I lost more than 40 pounds; I cut 37 points off my “bad” cholesterol without reducing the “good” cholesterol; I cut my triglycerides in HALF; my blood sugar was cut in half, and I have managed to maintain an excellent blood pressure in the range of 115 over 70 without the use of any medications.

Don’t congratulate me, though. I owe it entirely to my Catholic community, and especially my friends Jane and Kathy who have been supplementing my diet with wholesome, mostly organic, fruits, veggies and proteins, without which my dramatic improvement in health indicators would not have been possible.

There are a lot of single, disabled and/or frail elderly women who, at the end of their lives, find themselves living on nothing but their Social Security insurance, the average of which is $1,000 a month. Those with little or no family that are interested in helping them are especially vulnerable, and there are a surprising number of us. Families are smaller these days, and the bonds between relatives are often very tenuous. Husbands die or leave. Some women never marry.

When the subject of the poor comes up, most people think about people who stand on the street corners with cardboard signs, or the illegal aliens who gave birth to children after sneaking into the country, thereby anchoring themselves here and using the resources that Americans pay for. The U.S. does have many programs to help the “poorest of the poor,” but the upper two thirds of those living poor are almost entirely ignored, especially in a state like New Mexico.

In my case, I had been ill with several inherited conditions from the time I was a child, as well as being saddled with PTSD, due to certain traumatic events. Despite these multiple handicaps, I worked for more than 33 years and paid taxes throughout that time, but became completely unable to work by the time I was 50, and had to retire on Social Security Disability. After all those years of paying into the system, I was shocked when I learned that my pitiful income was “too much” to qualify me for any programs. No dental care. No eyeglasses (despite being nearly blind.) Nothing.

Whereas most people think the poor have “made bad life decisions” and that most are drug addicts or alcoholics, nothing could be further from the truth. I have recently read that only 1% of the poor have these issues. I have lived an entirely chaste life for many years and do not smoke, drink, or take drugs. I am not perfect, of course. I AM human. I just do not have the habits typically associated with the poor. Of course, one would expect this of a woman dedicated to the religious life, but my tame lifestyle is not unusual among the grannies who are struggling to put healthy food on their table, pay for over-the-counter and prescription medications, and purchase eyeglasses for failing vision.

Next time you wonder about where your contributions might help the most, please consider filling in the gaps in the unmet needs of the grannies in your parish or in your neighborhood. Find a lonely, myopic granny and adopt her. Ask her what she needs and, to the best of your ability, provide what you can. Make her a part of your family and treat her the same way you would treat your Mom.

A needy granny may be sitting next to you during mass. She could live next door to you. She won’t be dressed in rags and standing on a street corner.  She hasn’t always been poor, so she may look like any other nice, middle-class church lady, but her cupboards at home are nearly empty, and she hasn’t seen a dentist in 10 or 15 years. She may desperately need some new eyeglasses. Finding your “granny” may involve getting to know all the old people at your parish, which should be an eye-opening experience in many ways.

Try to resist turning this into an impersonal, generic Catholic ministry that is organized to help groups of people. The very best part of being adopted by my Catholic friends has been the love I have received from them, the friendship, and the caring. Food, vitamins and other needed items are only the SIGN of the most important gift.

One of the primary Biblical quotes that lead to my conversion was, “They shall know you by how you love one another.” I have received Christian love in this process and have been able to give it, in turn. I highly recommend it.

God bless you all.

Silver “Rose” Parnell

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