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Fortnight for Freedom Essay Winner - Gabriel Erb


Gabriel Erb
St. John, Westminster Parish

Religious freedom is a great gift we have in America. It means being able to worship the way you choose. The way you live your life is a way to worship God and you can show your faith by the way you live and love others. America was founded based on the idea of religious freedom. People left their homes, families and jobs to come to America for religious freedom. My ancestors fought for that freedom. Freedom of religion makes America special. Whenever something bad happens like fires, tornados, or even riots like the ones in Baltimore, Americans always help their neighbors. They are sharing God’s love and following Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Fr. Hector said that to “love your neighbor as yourself” means to love them the way they want to be loved.

We don’t have to do big things to love our neighbors. Sometimes small things make a difference. We live in the country and have only two neighbors. One set of neighbors is old and has trouble getting around. Miss Nancy was very sick. She died during the March snowstorm. Mr. Fred has trouble walking. My mom said that to honor your father and mother means to take care of the older people God puts in our lives.

My brothers, Nathaniel and Jeremiah, and I wanted to make sure that Mr. Fred and Miss Nancy had a clear path from the house to the driveway in case of an emergency when it snowed. When it snowed, we ran over to their house to shovel their steps and walkway. We wanted to make sure they were not stuck in the house. Sometimes we would go over a couple times in one storm to make sure that the walk was clear and the salt had melted the ice. We would check their walk before bed and in the morning to make sure melting snow had not frozen. They were grateful because they would smile and wave at us from the kitchen window. Sometimes they gave us chocolate or ice cream. We enjoyed the treats, but we didn’t do it for treats. We love them and we wanted to help them even though it was in a small way. We were happy they felt safer with a clean walkway.

Catholics receive the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. How can we give thanks for this great gift? We can pay the gift forward. We can help other people because Jesus lives in us and in them. We can love our neighbors the way they want to be loved. What we can’t do is nothing. That would be turning our backs on Jesus.

One day I hope to do more to help God’s people. When I am old enough, I’d like to go to other countries to help the poor children and share God’s love with them. In Catholic school we learn about and see God’s love every day, but other children are not so lucky. Thank you, God, for making me Catholic in America.