Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessed Are Those Who Don't Give A Damn

“When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people's. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others'. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people's pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness. 
By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
I don't know about you, but often I am still at the place where I try to avoid "the poor" at all costs.  If I see that there is a homeless person coming up on my side of the street, I'll deftly cross the street to avoid them. If I know that the woman in front of me is going to ask for money or a cigarette, I create a wide berth between myself and them.  Of course, there are other forms of poverty as well that aren't always noticeable. A person can be lacking in physical or mental wholeness as well; I'd rather avoid them too.

There's just one thing. I am one of them, I am poor too. Though thankfully I have a roof over my head, I am often broken mentally or emotionally, and I use soup kitchens for my meals.  Here, Nouwen says that the way forward is not by avoiding each other's poverty, but by embracing it and looking at it straight in the eye. By ignoring poverty we may "lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us." We can truly learn through our mutual poverty that it is not the material things in life that truly matter.

Blessed are the poor in spirit and for those who don't give a damn.

Mark Andrew Alward