Friday, November 14, 2014

The Beginnings of Something

This morning, I jumped on my emails, perused my writing forum for assignments, tweeted my links to Small Success Thursday and I'm linking to here.  Then I read the news and visited my favorite sites.   Asking for a Mission and what that means.  

This past week, a piece ran over at Catholic and Enjoying it, I am Arnold Abbott!, where the mayor and city counsel of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida made it illegal to feed the homeless on the street, illegal for the homeless to sleep in public, and illegal for them to own private property which they keep on public grounds. (The police can seize it on these grounds).   My heart hurt that a city would take this approach --to "help" the homeless.  They went so far as to arrest a 90 year old man and two pastors for feeding those who showed up for the meal.  

I read and researched other articles on the issue, and the spin was that they didn't want to stop feeding people, they wanted to regulate feeding these people.   Yeah.  So charity without a license, not allowed.  I could understand the copious reasons given for wanting this regulated.  It is still wrong to outlaw the impulse to charity. It is still wrong for a society to penalize people helping others.   There can be debates until the next century about how to solve the problem of homelessness with dignity, and there can be legitimate concerns about safety, both of those served and those serving, but it's still an odious society that hamstrings those with the least power, to serve the comfort of the "common good." I can't not fight it.   

Then I heard on NPR from a consultant who argues against any giving of money or food to the homeless except when it is tied to a program.  He claimed a 85% reduction in homelessness in the cities where such an aggressive policy has been enacted. I tried to find a link today, but could not after multiple searches.  What I wanted to know was if the reduction in homelessness was a result of policies getting people into programs and thus not homeless, or because they went elsewhere where the cities were more hospitable to those lacking homes. It's clear that many cities feel so frustrated by homelessness, they view these sorts of measures as a viable answer.  I don't claim to have an answer but I know it isn't to harrass those without homes or those who try to minister to them.

So when the Vatican announced it was building showers to let those who live outside, come in and get clean, I cheered.  This is the beginnings of the answer.  The answer is not a systemic program or government outreach, but one person to one person, outreach to meet the people and thus their needs.

I was feeling great until I saw this response:  How in the world do showers help??? Where are the change of clothes and the free mobile phones? Where are the shelters, etc? The proposition is ludicrous on its face... What is needed is for the PRIVATE sector in Rome and the WHOLE of the USA, to partner with multiple charities to create shelters, jobs, thrift stores where they can work, etc... The Saint Vincent DePaul Society does a GREAT job of this, why don't we help them there???? DUH.

To me, the showers help each person who uses them, to feel clean, refreshed, to have a sense of dignity, and that is the beginning. We are always at the beginning of serving, not the end.  When we die, if we've done this even sort of correctly, we will get the grace to continue the work as intercessors, to pull more people to continue this service to others, so that even more people will receive the gifts of grace squeezed into their heart.  It isn't that we shouldn't help Saint Vincent DePaul Society, but the goal is always to pull more people in. Some don't see the Saint Vincent DePaul Society, but they might see what Pope Francis is doing, and thus be pulled in to the Church, to encounter Christ, either by the help of the showers, or by what the showers represent.

The person asked, "Isn't that self defeating?"  W
ho is going to take a shower and put on their old stinky clothes? 

I would argue it's not. Because it still is the beginning, and every kindness removes some of the pain, some of the hurt, some of the loneliness.  What's self defeating is to not see them, to not invite them to eat even if they smell, or to think because I cannot solve every problem, I should not start to solve any problem.  Or worse, that the problem should be solved by other people or organizations or the government.   The rich man is condemned to Hell for doing nothing.  For refusing to treat Lazarus as even as he did his dogs.

But again the response: Pointless. Many will say it will be as if you are feeding stray dogs or cats...They will continue to come back over and over and over and the problem will multiply...Why? Because your ilk is not willing to address the fundamental issues of this scourge: Death of the Family, Immoral Business Practices and Immorality!!!

I'm ilk.  It's true.  Today, the county I live in has a deluxe shelter for stray animals.  It is beautiful, spacious and pristine but I do not know where the homeless in our county go when it is cold.  So he's right to charge I should do more, at the very least, learn more.   And once again, I know, "It is the beginning." 

Leaving aside the comparison of human beings to animals, which is itself so very wrong, these people are Christ in his distressing disguise.   Why act?  There are graces that come from performing corporeal acts of mercy, even on those we cannot permanently cure.  Jesus told us the poor would always be with us.   He calls us to love and to serve, not to create utopia.

However, here's the rub.  If all of us heard the call Pope Francis is issuing, to be neither cold or lazy in our care of the poor, how much closer all of us would come to beginning to build up the Kingdom of Heaven while here 
on Earth. 


"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed."

- Blessed Mother Teresa

None of us come close to Blessed Mother Teresa.  We can see the people on the corners of streets, some of them for years.  I agree, things cannot continue on as things are much longer.  If we are to be a people of hope, we need to hear and harken and harden not our hearts, toward anyone, roll up our sleeves and figure out how to get out there.  I'm going to find out where they go when the weather turns for starters.  We're called to catechize by being catalysts.  We're all the beginnings of something if we say "Yes."

How?  Ask.  Ask what beattitude God wants you to live out in faith.  Then seize it and live it.  You'll know, and then it will simply require of you, that you give back to God, the one thing you can give to God, The Grace of Yes.  

1 comment:

Matt Hawk said...

Well said, I think arguing that showers do nothing is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just because things can be better does not diminish the good that could be done. Just like more severe suffering does not lessen or cheapening to any other suffering. It could be worse and it could be better that does not change what things are.

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