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The Life Line


Gregory Kepferle, CEO
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County

The other day I happened to look out a window and glance up, and I noticed two window washers on a ten–story building across the street beginning their descent to clean the windows. They had anchored their safety lines to special devices on the roof, and to move down the side of the building, they carefully stepped off facing the building with their backs to the void below. Rappelling down the building, in order to move, they had to let the line go – sliding through their hands – and jump. To stop they simply held the line checked by a simple device. They then were able to wash the windows at the correct elevation. Having tried rappelling down small cliffs a number of years ago, I can attest to the exhilaration and the fear of stepping off into the void, and the simple lesson that to get where I wanted to go, I needed to let go. There was another lesson, which was to always have a safety line, so even if I let go, if I fell and lost control, I was still saved.

I think my life is a lot like rappelling down a building. When I try to be in control, I don’t get very far, but when I let go and trust to my lifeline, I become open to God’s grace and opportunities for new encounters with God. I am sometimes a slow learner, so I need window washers to remind me of that truth.
The divine lifeline doesn’t happen by magic. It becomes real in our lives through the people we encounter who in a certain moment become for us instruments of grace – listening, encouraging, challenging, and loving us unconditionally. We, too, can be divine lifelines for others, even unconsciously.

I see this every day in our work at Catholic Charities, where both staff and volunteers become lifelines for our participants who struggle with poverty, mental illness, addiction, loneliness, illness, fear and despair. I also see it when participants become lifelines for each other, encouraging and showing the way through tough circumstances – youth in our gang prevention and youth empowerment programs, seniors helping seniors, refugee youth or kinship caregivers supporting each other.

Who has been a lifeline for you? When have you been a lifeline for others?

To learn more about opportunities to be a lifeline for those in poverty, go to www.CatholicCharitiesSCC.org.