Last year on an alternative break in Cleveland, we were able to do a lot of good work. It was a bit of a strange trip. We helped a neighborhood organization clean out a bunch of hoarder houses (which got me a sinus infection for a good month). We ate with the homeless–as guests–not as volunteers. Had to sign our names in the book and everything. We visited a home for the dying–where they take dying people in who have nobody to care for them. We worked at a food pantry putting meals together and some mailings. And we worked at a drop in center where people can get a meal and participate in activities—cards, conversation, etc.
We also stayed one evening at the drop in center for the night and found that when people go away–the mice come out and play. Yuck. My colleague, Ed, had one crawl over his arm as he dared to sleep on the floor. Let’s just say he didn’t stay on the floor for very long.
But then it occurred to us. Nobody should have to live like this. And yet very many do. We questioned whether being in solidarity with those that lived this way actually changed us a bit—and in hindsight, I would say that it did. There’s not a single reason that any building run by any organization should be in that kind of disrepair. We often said that the homeless and the hungry deserve more. Much more. They deserve a dignified place where they can go and actually get more than they already have.
How often do we just give the poor the leftovers? Our leftover time, for starters is one thing that we give them instead of making them a priority in our lives. If we did we just might solve homelessness or make some headway into the problem.
But most of the time we’re too self-involved. Not always a bad thing…but could we make the poor more of a priority instead of just an extra-curricular activity?
Today, ask yourself what you might keep more conscious about the poor. What can you make a regular part of your life that makes a real contribution to those who are dying, poor, hungry?
In doing so, you honor the poor with dignity…the idea that all people are children of God and are worthy of our attention.
We shouldn’t need to remind ourselves of the poor’s dignity by having to immerse ourselves in solidarity with them –but I have a feeling that we all will need to do this from time to time—because it’s sure easy to forget the poor. Today let’s pray that we don’t.