“They (people in poverty) look just like you and me.” The sentence caught me. Visitors to this site know well St. Vincent’s plea for recognizing the human dignity of the person who is like a scarred and dented coin. When I remembered that people in poverty look just like me I also remembered that I have my scars and dents. And I don’t want to look at them often. This memory changed my perspective on how I encounter this quote of St. Vincent.
First, let’s look at the context of the sentence.
Have you ever walked down the street or driven down the road and tried to figure out if a certain individual was living in poverty? If yes, one would be amazed that it is not only the panhandler on the median or the scruffy individual on the sidewalk. Instead, they look just like you and me. They may be your neighbor or a parishioner kneeling next to you.
So in this third week of January, designated as National Poverty Month by the United States Bishops, I would like to share a couple of personal stories that have moved me and changed my perspective on poverty. Christine Krikliwy “Be the Poverty Change Agent”
I read these encounters with a realization that I am both persons in these encounters.
She includes the World Bank’s description of poverty:
“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.
Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape.
So poverty is a call to action — for the poor and the wealthy alike — a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”
Pope St. John Paul II reminded Americans 40 years ago:
The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs from the feast. You must take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in is order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.
What does have to do with Vincentians? She concludes:
As Vincentians we do amazing work feeding and clothing the needy. In today’s world we must couple that work with the task of systemically eliminating poverty. We must become advocates and mentors for those living in poverty, not mere couriers delivering food and clothing. We need to ‘BE THE CHANGE’ through our many voices, experiences and education.
Luke 12:48 “To whom much is given, much will be required.”