Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,
The Christophers’ Board of Directors
In the 2019 short film Feeling Through, a homeless teen named Tereek approaches a man named Artie who is holding a cane and standing at the edge of a sidewalk with a sign that reads, “I am deaf and blind. Tap me if you can help me to cross the street.” After a moment of uncertainty, Tereek taps Artie on the arm, and this sets in motion a chain of events that leads to a profound human connection.
As he helps Artie navigate his way, first to a bus stop and then onto a city bus that will take him home, Tereek realizes that he himself is being helped by this experience. Artie writes messages on a notepad for Tereek, who answers by tracing one letter at a time on Artie’s hand. In this way, they discover simple things about each other, like the fact that Artie is thirsty, prompting a trip to a nearby bodega and causing them to miss the bus, which in turn forces them to wait together for the next one. This provides opportunity for them to discover more about each other, and it becomes evident that, despite his own troubles, Tereek has taken it upon himself to see Artie safely onto his bus.
After getting Artie onto his bus and making sure the driver will get him home, Tereek prepares to leave Artie and asks if he’s okay. Artie assures him that he is fine. Then Artie takes Tereek’s hand, and drawing one letter at a time on his palm, says, “You’ll be okay,” and gives him a big hug, revealing that he understands Tereek is facing troubles. This is a beautiful moment, where we come to understand the generous spirit with which Artie was allowing Tereek to help him, because he knew Tereek needed to realize the power of good that resided within himself.
The connection made by these two characters exemplifies the way people can fulfill each other’s needs when they open their hearts and are willing to give of themselves. It is a theme that is reminiscent of The Christophers’ classic film A Link in the Chain, starring James Cagney as an elderly professor wondering if he’s made a difference in the world until powerful remembrances assure him of the impact he has had on others’ lives. Cagney’s character realizes that he has been a link in the chain of the wisdom of God, passed from one person to another through acts of generosity. In this same way, Tereek and Artie are a link in the chain for each other, providing a connection to God by sharing what they can to lighten each other’s burdens.
After seeing Artie safely on his way, Tereek sets off on his own for what we know will be a difficult night on the streets. Yet, as he passes a man who seems worse off than himself, Tereek makes a stunning act of kindness, demonstrating the profound impact the encounter with Artie has had on him. In the end, we learn that it is only through generosity that we can fully understand who we are in relation to God. In helping others, we come to see how cared for we are and are strengthened to brave the most difficult circumstances in life. And we find this strength because we have discovered a mission we’re all called to embrace, which is to meet people where they are and help them to know they are loved and cared for by God.
For free copies of the Christopher News Note PRACTICE KINDNESS TO CHANGE LIVES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: email@example.com