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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Invisible...the Poor....the Homeless

I read this post over at Abbey-Roads, and encourage you all to head over for a snapshot of life in Minneapolis for those we often would prefer not to acknowledge.

Maybe because I have been reading Dickens, but my experiences today made an impression upon me. I realize how blind I have become to the needs of others, to the invisible people. They are only invisible because I've chosen not to acknowledge them. I may see them in my day to day experiences, nevertheless I never see them in their context. I recognize their poverty, but do not even attempt to imagine their living conditions. I can give money to help them, or a kind smile, but I move on in a hurry to get back to the comfort of my home, forgetting all about them. The irony is, I insist that I am always aware of them...nevertheless they remain poor and miserable while I am comfortable and doing everything I can not to be miserable. In essence, we are no different from these poor, except maybe the fact that they remain invisible.

A few years ago, I wrote a lot of poetry, and I remember how my thoughts, after a conversation with an ex-homeless man, followed much of the same pattern as expressed by Terry in his post. I have not previously shared any of my poetry on this blog as, really, it's not any good, but sometimes I do read this one and it reminds me to open my eyes a little more, to see what I don't want to see, and to remember I'm only a paycheck away from the same sort of existence.

Beneath the bridges
of the highways
People speed by, never seeing
the homeless citizens
beneath them.
The full moon rises over the city
setting in silhouette
makeshift shelters
under which
the downtrodden settle
with their bowls of soup
the light they can't seem to catch.

I often travel through a part of Minneapolis, the borderlands seperating Downtown from Uptown, where Hennepin and Lyndale merge and an exit crosses back over Hennepin to give access to Hwy 94. To the north of that mess, Lyndale extends under Hwy 94 and merges with 394. This entire stretch, in the shadow of the Basilica of St. Mary, the homeless build shelters, hold signs, and eke out some sort of existence; the kind we all think can never happen to us. They probably thought that once, too.

Catholic Social Teaching demands that we embrace the poor, but how often do we do it? How often do we stretch out our hands to the downtrodden; rather, don't we often condemn them and "sentence" them, attributing their demise to their own actions? But we don't know them, we don't know where they came from or how they came to live under the Highway 94 exit, or holding a sign on Glenwood Avenue while trucks rumble by on the overpass above their heads.

To ignore the poor is to ignore Jesus Christ, and yet, it's so hard for us to leave the comfort of our warm, heated homes to spend even a couple hours in reaching out personally to the poor. Writing a check isn't always enough, because a check is a simple piece of paper...a handshake, a conversation...THOSE are blessed moments spent with Jesus.

And by my very words on this page, I am condemned, I am convicted, and you are all my witnesses.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Hey, wait a minute. I'm the only local blogger then can kick myself in the keister for being uncharitable! :-)

I think we all need a reminder of humility and compassion once and awhile. We need to take stock of ourselves and see where we need improvement.

I thought your poem was very good.

Unknown said...

And it's not just your words, Adoro.

, As often as you do it for the least of these, you do it for Me. ,

We are all condemned by those words.

Anonymous said...

I think it's so easy to get overwhelmed, because we can't help ... or touch ... or whatever ... THEM ALL. Then, I remember Mother Teresa, who said, "The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”