Reflection by Maddie Zitella on the Eighth Station of the Cross

Lord, let me serve you in my neighbor. In the eighth station, Simon of Cyrene was a man in the crowd, compelled by the Romans to help Jesus carry his cross. How often are you that person in the crowd? How often do you see someone burdened by a "cross?" Whose face do you see? Do you help them? We are occasionally asked to give ourselves up in the same way as Simon did, in our own lives. I view these calls to help others when we least expect it, or find it least convenient, as calls from God. I, too, was that person in the crowd, called to respond to someone in need. I, too, saw a face: the face of a single mother; the face of Jesus.
Service hours were one of the requirements to be confirmed through my Parish. I dragged my feet and viewed each requirement as a box to check off towards confirmation. I signed up to work at the parish food pantry one day after school, only feeling a sense of dread. After a short time of unloading food and boxes in the pantry, I was shocked to see people begin to file inside. I was quickly told to help guide the pantry clients through the aisles and to help collect their food. A garbage bag used to collect the items was shoved into my hands and the first group in line, a single mother and her child, stepped up beside me. Lord, let me serve you in my neighbor. With the mother’s hands on her sons’ shoulders and me at her side, we navigated through the isles, stopping for boxes of crackers, toiletries, and produce. As I helped the mother, I felt a deep sense of empathy and compassion. It was late on a Tuesday night, and this single mother was relying on the pantry's services and the help of a volunteer to provide for her child. I was extremely humbled by this and almost felt unworthy - I was picked at random or by mistake to aid this woman in carrying her cross. Shortly, the bag was full, with only room to fit a couple of picture books for the young boy. This experience, unknowingly being put in a situation where I was required to help a person less fortunate, helped define what true service means to me -- looking someone in their eyes, recognizing their humanity, and looking for a way to help. Lord, let me serve you in my neighbor.
Although I can’t exactly compare myself to Simon who carried Jesus’s cross, heard his labored breathing, and saw blood dripping down his face from the crown of thorns, I did share in his experience of being placed in a situation where I had to serve. I felt the fulfillment and humble peace that came with helping others in their time of need. After assisting Jesus to carry his cross, Simon went on to start his own faith journey, becoming a follower of Christ. Seeing the face of Christ in the woman that I helped, I was motivated to put my love into action and apply this to service, whether it be teaching dance classes to kindergarteners, or tutoring Carmel students. Being an instrument of God’s spirit on earth allows me to be a servant in the crowd, willing to bear the cross of my neighbor. Whose face do you see as you walk by your neighbor carrying a cross? Will you choose to stop and help? Lord, let me serve you in my neighbor.