Jayleen L. Hatmaker
In August 1980 an ugly scene brought my 13-year marriage to an end. I fled our home with my two children, $5 and nowhere to go except my mother’s. Staying there more than a couple nights wasn’t an option.
The next morning I headed out to find help. The welfare office referred me to an emergency agency that found a small apartment. It was dismal and in a rough area, but I had to make the most of it. A woman there wrote down an address and said to go tell “Brother Ed” she’d sent me.
The address was a nondescript warehouse near a Catholic school. Inside, floor to ceiling held everything imaginable from furniture to clothing. A short, unassuming, thin Caucasian man approached, introduced himself as Brother Ed and asked how he could help.
Scared to death about the future, I told him who sent me.
Brother Ed led me through the packed maze to a clearing, his “office”. He sat me down, offered a soda, and his lunch! He softly asked me to tell my story. He listened as it poured out… years of abuse, the fix we were in. He nodded, concerned, asked few questions, and accepted my tears. He offered neither sympathy, nor disapproval. When I felt too wrung out to speak, he went to work.
We toured the place as he anticipated our needs, referring to himself in third person, as “Brother Ed”. He selected twin beds for my children, a sofa bed for me, sheets, blankets, clothing, towels, washcloths, small kitchen appliances, cooking utensils, everything we’d need — including ironing board and iron!
With each step I felt more dumbfounded. Was I expected to pay? Nothing was new, but it represented a small fortune to me. I couldn’t believe he was GIVING this stuff to us! Within minutes, a huge pile was gathered near the doors, and Brother Ed explained the furniture would be ready that afternoon.
With his next question my heart sank, “Do you have a way to move everything?” As my mind whirled, he said, “You can use Brother Ed’s van.” I should return at 5 p.m. with helpers, load the van, move everything, then return the van. All matter-of-fact, as if he’d known me his entire life.
Overwhelmed, I couldn’t believe that he seriously would allow total strangers to disappear with his personal vehicle, possibly never to be heard from again! But that’s exactly what happened. I did, of course, return Brother Ed’s van along with my eternal gratitude.
I later learned Brother Ed was a local Jesuit. The warehouse stored donations for the order’s second-hand store. Though his vocation was helping others, I will ever remain indebted to Brother Ed.
I do what I can to pay it forward. I’ve never forgotten his selflessness, and am still deeply touched and grateful, and can only guess how many lives he has touched. I truly believe Brother Ed saved me and my children. I know he saved my spirit.