1897 (New York, USA) – 1980 (New York, USA)
As a little girl, Dorothy lived near San Francisco in California. Do you know where that is? That’s right, it is in the United States of America. When Dorothy was eight years old, a mighty earthquake hit San Francisco and killed 3000 people. Almost all of the houses were damaged and the smaller earthquakes that followed really scared everyone. How do you think you would feel if an earthquake shook your house? Exactly! It’s a very frightening thing!
But, something very important happened after the earthquake. Instead of letting fear and worries take over their lives, Dorothy and her mum joined their neighbors and spent their days helping the families who have lost their homes. They put every piece of clothing together that they didn’t absolutely need and gave it to those who had nothing. They shared their food and blankets and spent whole days caring for the homeless. Instead of being left only with the shock of the earthquake, Dorothy took with her a very different idea from those days: the joy of doing good and of sharing everything she had with others.
Ever since she was little, Dorothy also had a special friendship with the saints and with Jesus’ mum, Mary. Reading about St. Teresa of Avila, talking to Mary in prayer and seeing the beauty of the world that God made, all filled Dorothy with joy. So much so that she felt her heart grow with love, to the point of bursting. Do you ever feel that happy when you see something beautiful or when someone loves you very much?
Because it is impossible to keep such joy and love to yourself, Dorothy felt that God was asking her to help those who were suffering and in difficulty. She saw poverty, injustice and loneliness turn people to despair. Dorothy felt very strongly that it wasn’t enough just to look after the poor but that we also have to change the world so that no one is poor or treated badly.
To do that, Dorothy first became a journalist. Do you know what a journalist is? That’s right! It is someone who writes for newspapers about what is going on in the world. Dorothy wrote about the many bad things that were happening in New York, where she lived, but also in other parts of the world. She wrote about children being made to work, workers being treated unfairly, women not being allowed to vote, farmers not having a chance to feed their families. She also supported those who complained about these many unfair things happening and was even put in prison because of it. Have you ever stood up to a bully to help a classmate at school or in a playground? Great! That is exactly what Dorothy would have done too.
Later, with the help of others, Dorothy started looking after poor people by setting up what were called “houses of hospitality.” Many people, even if they had work, struggled with paying for a flat or house where they could live and they came to Dorothy for help. Instead of just sharing what she had with the poor and, at the end of the day, going back to a comfortable home, Dorothy, and her daughter Tamar, actually lived in one of these houses. She shared her life with the poor by cooking for them, eating with them and also sleeping in one house with them. At the same time, Dorothy continued her work as a journalist, writing for the Catholic Worker newspaper that she started. Like that she could help many people know about the bad things that were going on and about how Jesus is asking us to help.
Dorothy is a great example for us of a person who listened to what God was asking her to do and who lived her life for others. During her life, Dorothy also made some big mistakes and many people judged her for that and made her life difficult. But Dorothy knew that God loved her, like he loves you and me, no matter what we do, and this helped her start again and again to love. Shall we try to do that too?
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.”