A stay-at-home-Mom offers her expanded answer to “who are the poor?” The poor are our teachers!
Like most people, when I heard the word “poor,” my mind conjured up images of the homeless and those in shelters or soup kitchens. Sadly, my concept of poverty was limited to socioeconomic status.
I have since learned that poverty can take many forms – spiritually, emotionally, materially, etc. True Gospel poverty is a lifestyle choice and has nothing to do with the socioeconomic status one is born into. To be “poor in spirit” is a gift, a virtue, a grace. God calls certain people to a particular level of simplicity which extends beyond that which most of us understand or desire. St. Vincent de Paul understood Gospel poverty so intensely that it became his entire mission, ministry, and way of life. … ”
So did John Vanier whom she quotes, “We in L’Arche are beginning to touch something of the mystery that people like St. Vincent de Paul grasped when he said: ‘The poor are our teachers.’”
She then reflects of what she has learned from her daughter Sarah who was born with a rare chromosomal anomaly called Apert Syndrome and will undergo between 20-60 surgeries throughout her life.
… She concludes with a passage that gives new meaning to the word of St. Vincent de Paul “The poor are out masters (teachers)”
People like my daughter Sarah are born “poor in spirit.” There is an honesty and authenticity about them that is so rare that it has become a treasure to many.
The poor teach the rest of us, because they have nothing to hide from the world. They possess nothing, and they know that. Their poverty is evident and visible; it is impossible to hide from the world.
While most of us live in comfort and seek wealth and status, the poor have become accustomed to discomfort and pain and suffering. That is their way of life, and yet many of them – in their vulnerability – make us uncomfortable. I believe this is because we do not want to face the poverty in ourselves; we cover up our struggles and sins and instead show the world our “happy face.” We allow the world to believe in a lie about ourselves, which sometimes we come to believe, as well. This delusion is not uncommon.
But the poor remind us that we are like them. We, too, are lacking in something. Perhaps it is not in money or socioeconomic status or education. Perhaps our poverty is in the secrets and darkness we are tempted to hide. Perhaps we are poor, because we do not have God. We do not have faith. And so our poverty is due to the void we feel each day, because we do not experience God’s goodness and grace.
I am humbled in the sight of the poor and suffering, the babies and the elderly, those with physical and cognitive differences. When I look into Sarah’s eyes and see such great love, my heart is pierced with the understanding that I lack love and am quite selfish. When I see a homeless man hanging his head in shame, I am reminded that I am like that man on the inside, ashamed of my own sins that I am able to hide, but which he cannot.
In my youth I was convinced that I was somehow “set apart” from others, because I had a good education and came from a good home. God has since humbled me and allowed me to be humiliated many times in my adult life, and I am now grateful for these humiliations. I now see how they were opportunities for me to grow in grace and sanctification.
Today, the poor are beautiful to me. I want to be like them. I want to share in their suffering, because I now understand that suffering is a common thread in humanity. They are representative of God, because they are not afraid to be real, to allow their misery and strife to be visible.
Sarah was born that way, naked and unashamed of who she is and how she was created to look differently than most of us. In turn, I am the one who has learned from her and continue to be amazed when I see highly educated professionals tell me how much she has touched their hearts.
That is the gift of grace that is evident in the poor.
Please read the entire reflection at the Catholic Mom website. Your heart will be touched as give the details of her conversion and shares a picture of her daughter. She challenges us to look at our own assumptions and prejudices — what we believe and value in this life.
Jeannie Ewing holds a Masters Degree in Education for School Counseling and after working briefly is now happily a stay-at-home mom to Felicity, 3, and Sarah, 8 months old; Sarah was born with a rare chromosomal anomaly called Apert Syndrome and will undergo between 20-60 surgeries throughout her life. She is married to Ben, a materials engineer and volunteer reserve officer. Jeannie is currently working on a collective memoir that will showcase stories of families who either have Apert Syndrome or have a child with Apert Syndrome. She blogs about her family’s faith journey as it pertains to Sarah’s medical care at http://www.lovealonecreates.com.
(Graphic of VIncent courtesy of DePaul Image Archive)