On Sundays, we are reading Bishop Untener’s reflection on his decree to remember the poor.
The real-life poor do not come as easily to mind as, say, the sick.
A person might say, “Well, now that you mention it, I did hear about such-and-such family, and how they haven’t been around much lately, and that they’ve been having a hard time.” Then somebody else would tell of someone they knew or heart about, and we would all be somewhat surprised. We didn’t expect poor people to be in our neck of the woods.
Poor people are everywhere, and once we tune in to them, a whole new world opens up. Tuning in to the poor, however, is no small trick.
The poor around us (as opposed to the ghetto, or some distant country) are often invisible. They aren’t in our same “networks.” They aren’t at the same gatherings. They don’t belong to councils or committees. They don’t always go to church (and if they do, they try hard not to look poor). They don’t bump into us at the mall or the supermarket. Take tuition assistance at schools. We offer help for those who can’t pay full tuition – or can’t pay any tuition. But the poor often do not come forward. Why? It’s announced in the parish bulletin. There are even fliers about it. But the poor don’t get the parish bulletin. They don’t see or respond to the fliers.
If you want the poor to take advantage of help for the poor, you must reach out to find them. To find the poor, you must go out of your way. You must look with different eyes, for the poor feel that we do not want them in the normal parts of our lives. So they disguies themselves or absent themselves.
Mental note: It takes initiative and creativity to reach the poor.