Are you a keeper of the flame?

“I do not socialise much. I do not have fancy clothes. But I have fun. The thing is, I do not have much money to get married. I do not keep any of my money. After I got a job, I sponsored six orphans through charitable organisations.”

This is what Charlie de Leo told ‘The Los Angles Times’ reporter Dave Smith several years ago. Who was Charlie de Leo?

After many returned from Vietnam, struggling to make a living, Charlie had found a job of maintaining the Statue of Liberty. He was assigned the job of cleaning up the statue every day, to ensure the 750 sodium vapour lamps were burning at dusk. He had to polish the crown and the torch and clean the 200 glasswindows on the statue among many other jobs. He climbed the iron girders at least 2,500 times during his 27 years of service.  The job was arduous indeed, but it was his humility, love for God, love for the poor and thankfulness for God’s blessings that fuelled him to work.

When the then Pope John Paul II addressed a public gathering close to the Statue of Liberty, Charlie stood silently on a high raft, listening and praying thankfully for his job, which he joyfully defined as ‘keeper of the flame’. No matter what religion we profess, God has called each one of us to be, like Charlie, ‘keepers of the flame’; 

Faithfulness in charity, in humility and love in the positions and responsibilities we hold. St Augustine said: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” Saint Peter writes, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6)

In all humility, Charlie told press reporter Dave Smith, “This is my chapel I dedicated to the Lord. I go up there every day, do my work and meditate during my break on the sacredness of my job.” He recalled how he returned from the poverty-stricken areas of New York and grew up as a ‘tough kid’. 

He also humbly acknowledged how he was appreciated by the Red Cross Society for donating sixty-five pints of blood. On hearing of Mother Teresa, he saved 12,000 dollars from his meagre earnings to contribute to her works of charity.

The Bible says, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35). 

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).

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