Last night, we previewed the revamped Love the Poor program. We went to St Vincent DePaul soup kitchen and helped serve the evening meal. Love the Poor previously had been a program that took meals and coffee to where people were, in the parks, in front of City Hall, to bus stops, where ever people were. We felt that that was the best place to see Christ in the environment, and also to be at peace with the community, and welcome the community in the Kin-dom of Christ.
St Vincent was an unusual situation. We didn’t have time to talk to people to people and we forged no bonds with the community. When I myself the nights the people came out and gave sandwiches. I was hungry sometimes and grateful to get the sandwich. Mostly though I was hungry for the fellowship and the conversation, and the hope that somebody cared a little about me and my problems.
You see I never had to pretend I was smarter than I was, and I wouldn’t let people get away with claiming they were smarter than they actually were.
After the thousands of words shared by me and others who dispensed sandwiches, very few invited to join their communities. Very few offered me a place at the table. The fact that they were out there dispensing sandwiches was exclusion. You are not the same as me, their actions say, nor could your be me. I ‘m giving you sandwiches to sooth your miserable existence.
I remember two girls from a Christian School that I won’t name with tears in their blue eyes as they watched the despair around them, and smelled the stench from the homeless using nature’s bathroom.
“Why do people choose this as a lifestyle?” They asked me in tortured voices.
Nobody had bothered to tell them the birds and the bees of poverty. No one showed them a scorecard indicating who profits and who bleeds.
I found that a lot churches and service providers hid the ball when it comes to dispensing services. Not know the answer to poverty, or perhaps more cynically not wanting to reveal the answer, they blame the poor for their state.
Church after church stumbles around in a blind leading the blind setting, trying to do what they think is the right thing, imploring poor people that their status can vastly improve with the Blood of Jesus.
I don’t know much about Christ. With me it’s a feeling more than anything else. I do know that Jesus, in his existence on this Earth was a poor person. A homeless person. I know he fed people from where he was. I knew that he fed people from where they were. From his statements to the rich and about the rich, it can even be argued that he sided with the poor. When he invited people into the Kin-dom of heaven, into his inclusion he was inviting them into the wealth of community.
That’s why I was at St Vinnie’s. I was looking for community. I was looking for the Kin-dom of Heaven amongst the poor. Like a hippo imitating Swan Lake, I clumsily look for ways to imitate Christ, and his mission and his Love.
When we do love the poor, and we love them at St Vinnie’s we will be inclusive not exclusive. We will invite them into the Kin-dom from where they are, not from where we wish them to be.