Just an Average Joe

joe 3Pamps with one of his sisters
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

The son of a Sicilian immigrant, he was a strong man, with a large presence. He was a dichotomy; outwardly vocal and passionate about his ethnicity, heritage and family, and genteel and mannered when it came to social interactions. He was a man of pride, and a humble man. Not willing to suffer fools well, he refused to live his life in the “shades of gray” – his point of view was in pure black and white. He had strong opinions and even stronger convictions.

He was the eldest child in an Italian household; his father, a stonemason by trade, had returned from the war blind due to an infection from non sterile needles. (pictured below). 127With a mother and several sisters at home, he learned quickly the additional responsibilities that were his to inherit. He learned to work hard, play hard and love fiercely. He became a father to 5 children and later dozens of grandchildren. With as many nephews, nieces, siblings, his mother and her sisters, he continued to care for them all in one way or another. He stepped in as a surrogate for vacant husbands, busy fathers, missing friends. He practiced the biblical truth of to have a friend, one must be a friend. He was patriarchal center of a very large family that stretched across multiple generations. This was Pamps, a nickname given to the head of the family.

When it came to his Roman Catholic faith, it was as much a part of him as being Italian. There was no separation of that state. Even so, he was quiet in his private views, and his personal faith was exemplified by his actions, not necessarily his words. It is those actions that lead to his real legacy. He was giving to a fault and everyone knew that in the family.

There is a family story about an indigent man, Earl, who lived on the streets near Pamp’s shop. Earl would come in every day looking for money – Pamps never tired of giving him a Coke, some food – but mostly he never tired of giving him dignity. He would sit with Earl and listen to him talk, sharing friendship with him. Pamps closed the shop many years ago but he would continue to send a $20 check every Christmas to a friend who ran the gas station near his old shop – to give to Earl. He did this for more than 20 years. One year, Earl stopped cashing the check….but the lesson is not lost.

Pamps was also a very forgiving person. As anyone knows (and we all do) that there are highs and lows in all families – transgressions, bad choices, big faults. He had the keen ability to see the fault separate from the person, and just as Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin, Pamps got the message loud and clear. He knew personally and inherently, that those who have sinned much must forgive much.

As he grew older and became a widower, he spent even more and more time reaching out to family. He was not an “old man” in the sense of the words…in fact, because his house wasn’t big enough to hold all the family for holiday dinners, he actually built an extra room just for the purpose! This was typical. Pamps passed away several years ago at age 88. He left a very big void in the lives of all he touched. He also left an extraordinary legacy for others to follow.

It was in the task of putting his personal effects in order which fell on his family that it became very apparent how his life-time private actions had really affected many. In the spirit of helping others, known and unknown, his family found check upon check stuffed into envelopes and addressed to multiple charities in need. Think about it – he was living on his social security and a small retirement…but he stayed faithful. Like the widow in the church who gave her only pennies to the Lord, Pamps loved others through his actions to the very end and gave until it hurt. And you might ask, what happened to those checks? His daughter mailed them of course – that is what Pamps would have wanted. So I guess, he wasn’t such an average Joe after all. 😉

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

Submitted today by a thankful Grandson.


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