“I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me. Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt. 25)
It seems fitting that Jim McIngvale was born in 1951 on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes–February 11th–the date on which Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception appeared to a poor girl named Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, in 1858. The message of Lourdes is forever associated with prayer, suffering, penance, and water–LOTS of water–a symbol of God’s grace and love. Jim McIngvale is a man who will be forever associated with prayer, suffering, penance, and lots of water, but also with God’s grace and love. While few people know him by his given name, millions of people throughout the South recognize his other name, “Mattress Mack.” He is a Catholic business man, who opened the doors of his furniture stores in Houston to shelter and feed the cold, wet, dirty, and exhausted evacuees who were rescued from the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
It was not the first time “Mattress Mack” came to the aid of “the least” who were in dire need. He also fed and sheltered people who evacuated New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He gave jobs to some of those evacuees, who still work for him today, changing their lives dramatically for the good. For twenty years he has donated furniture to the poor at Christmas. When asked about his charitable works, he humbly replied, “I was raised Catholic. I continued my Catholic faith through my life, trying to do the right thing and you can help people along the way.”
“You did it to Me”
I recently came across a photo of “Mack” smiling behind one of his sofas. (photo here) On the wall directly behind him was a quote from Mother Teresa, “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed this “extraordinary love” by orienting her life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need. Mother Teresa’s whole being was directed toward this encounter with Jesus in the poor. There is only one Mother Teresa and only one “Mattress Mack,” but each one of us is called to perform works of mercy for the persons that God places in our lives, so that we too may each become a sign of God’s grace and love to others.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”–Mother Teresa
“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta