In a world of picture books that are mostly hot topics and all about self, instead of others, this book was a breath of fresh air. Packed with simple, but deep lessons to take in and begin applying just as the characters in the book find themselves doing as they interact with the selfless Julia Greeley, Secret Angel to the Poor.
Julia Greeley makes those who don’t really know her a little uncomfortable. You see, she is poor, wears a floppy hat, drags a wagon full of discarded junk around (often at night!), has a dead eye that makes it difficult to know where to look, and begs of most everyone she comes across.
To make matters worse for those who are uncomfortable being uncomfortable, she sits right in the front pew to say her prayers and when she attends Mass.
What they don’t know —but the firemen, the policemen, and the pastor of the church do — is that Julia Greeley is a gem of a soul who has been refined by the trials of life to care for others worse off than she. They greet her warmly and allow her to serve her community in the mission she claims God has given her and she best keep on doing. She often turns down gifts meant for her to give to someone else who has a need greater than her own. She cleans the church as a gift that she can give of her time and skill. She even challenges the pastor with needs she has seen around the community that she has decided to fill: once carrying a mattress on her own back to leave at the door of a poor family who were in need of a warm place to sleep.
One of the things that the church ladies she made uncomfortable had seen her doing and thought very odd until the whole story was told to her by the pastor.
While at first many of the people who notice or follow Julia around are upsetting, you get to see their change of heart and how their own character develops as they watch her serve and begin giving of themselves as well. The more stories come out page after page, the more Julia’s humility and service are valued and aided.
The story of how her dead eye came to be isn’t overly dwelt on, but it is heartbreaking and brings the opportunity for some very needed conversations about human dignity, our country’s history with slavery, and how we can but shouldn’t allow abnormalities rob us of the joy that is another human person. Also, it brings about the conversation of not allowing our very real trauma and injustices that can come into this world to hold us back or make us bitter.
This heart warming story is one that I will be keeping. I ended up wiping away some tears as I read it and I cannot wait to read it to my kids as this is one that is getting saved for under the tree. It is that good.