Noticing Our Poor…

Isaiah (58: 8-10) has a lovely way with words, outlining the kind of fasting the Lord has in mind:

“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

For when we do this we do not please ourselves and our rewards will be from His hands,

“Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here I am.  ….then your light will break forth like the dawn”

Are we noticing the poor and the wanderer on our own streets, in our neighborhoods, amongst our families or at work?

While we were homeschooling we would go to the library every Friday after morning mass.  There was a homeless man there, sometimes sitting on a bench outside, always wearing everything he owned, rugged of complexion, bearded, quiet and gracious.  In the winter he would take refuge inside where he would snore gently in the comfortable chairs surrounded by the periodicals; at night we would see him stretched out on the ground outside.

We began carrying a variety of fast food certificates to give him for a cup of coffee or a meal and once or twice we saw him hunched over a restaurant table, eating, alone.

I did not invite him to my table, or my home.  He may have refused me but I’ll never know.

We did what was appropriate with a growing family.

Last week at our thanksgiving breakfast our married son told of a homeless young man who had wandered into the trendy restaurant/bar where he and his wife work.

“It was freezing cold outside,” he told me, “and he was only wearing a short sleeved t-shirt.  His shoes had no laces, the tongues were hanging out.”

The closeness in age struck a chord with my son and his wife and he continued his story,

“His eyes were riveted to the game, he wasn’t bothering anyone.  We ordered him some pretzel bread and a glass of water.  It hadn’t arrived by the time the owner asked him to leave which he did, with a shrug.”  Simon was concerned by this,

“I don’t see why he wasn’t allowed to stay, he wasn’t causing any trouble, he was very polite, he was just watching the TV.”

I understood why he had been asked to leave.

“Homeless people aren’t really good for business.”  I said.

And what does that say about us?

Imagine every restaurant in town allowing their homeless in, quietly feeding them, sending them on their way nourished and loved.

Would that be so bad for business?

Would that not be good for us?

Isaiah says,

“If you do away…with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry…then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday .”


Later Simon and his wife saw him again, outside, cold and standing on the corner,

“It was freezing…” he repeated, tucked in his own jacket, safe in the knowledge that he was going home to sit by his fire.

“Lindsey gave me her sweatshirt, it had a fleece hood and was a little short on her but we couldn’t leave him shivering.  You should have seen him pull it straight on over his head.  He thanked us and we moved on.”

How easy would it be to carry seasonally appropriate clothing around in my car for such moments as these?

How much harder to open my eyes and see such moments as these in my neighborhood?

How many times have I ignored Jesus?

How many times have I walked right passed him, brushed him off because he wasn’t like me?

There but for the grace of God go I.

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