What the Poor Have Taught Me

 The poor around the world have taught me a great deal. Over and over again I was astounded by their generosity, kindness and mercy to others, more often than not rendered while they themselves were in a state of absolute insufficiency. It is so easy for me to give from my excess, from what I really don’t need. But Christ desires that we do much more than simply share our “left-overs.” My time among the poor has taught me that I need to become poor in spirit, to recognize my own limits and my own dependence upon God for everything.

 To be wholly present to God, with all of my heart, mind and soul, I must be poor in spirit. Poverty of spirit frees me from being divided by false idols and uncurbed passions, frees me from the craving that makes me restless, distracting my heart and mind from being present to God alone. Poverty of spirit creates a receptive heart which allows the Divine to find a home within me. Poverty of spirit does not refer to an economic condition. It reflects the human reality that I am poor before God and, consequently, I need to radically depend on God alone for true fulfillment.

 I must be on guard not to confuse the necessities of life with what is luxurious. The humble simplicity that embodies poverty of spirit stands in stark contrast with the unbridled pursuit of comfort, power, pleasure and riches which permeates a society that prizes possessions as a good in itself. Poverty of spirit, I am learning, is a means of maintaining a continual attitude of dying to self without succumbing to self-hatred or causing a lack of self-esteem. I need to die to self because it is the only way for me to be fully alive to God.

 The only thing I am sure of is my own sinfulness and my profound need of God’s love and mercy. And as that awareness grows, I in turn have no other choice but to be more merciful and loving to all, especially those who live in the margins of society. Caring for the needs of others is the essence of true piety.

 The kind of physical poverty I have witnessed is an injustice on a grand scale. It must be eliminated; human dignity must be restored. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the colossal scope of the problem of global poverty and hunger. I find it overwhelming. All I can do is realize my own limitations and humbly ask God to help me formulate a response that works for me personally.

 While no one can do everything, each of us must do everything we can. I have come to see that there are countless ways every one can help. When it comes to helping the poor, not knowing what to do is not an excuse to do nothing. The simple answer is: Do what you can…just do something and do it well, and let God’s grace do the rest. We must fight the feeling that one person cannot make a difference. If you are awake and aware, every day will present you with an opportunity to do something… even if it is only offering a homeless person a smile. Each of us can do more; each of us needs to do more. Do what you can, today and everyday. Pray that you do not forget or ignore the poor and the hungry.

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