2 Oct – Jesus might have said to us not to be concerned about what we will eat or what will we wear, but he did not say anything about not being concerned about what our neighbours eat or wear. In fact, it was the other way around. We should be very concerned about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
My husband Jonathan and I got to visit the USA a little while ago. Needless to say, we were well fed and well clad. We started in style with our goddaughter’s husband organising a cheap deal at Chicago’s Hilton Hotel. It didn’t matter that eating there was way too expensive. He knew this great breakfast place down the road which served the largest breakfasts I’d ever seen. Even more stunning was the way the waiter carried five enormous breakfasts on his arm at once. After seconds of coffees and orange juices we were overly replete and well set up for the day. The short walk to Chicago’s Institute of Art was bereft of beggars with cans and pieces of cardboard, and full of people like me instead. The USA was the way it was in my imagination.
So it was a bit of a shock seeing poor and homeless people on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Opposite Saks department store stands St Patrick’s Cathedral. Homeless people set up home on its steps. Saks contains many beautifully designed objects. St Patrick’s itself is a masterpiece of gothic design – a reminder that beauty is a gift from God.
Going to Mass means walking past people clearly going without. It even means momentarily invading their space as you head to the door. The Mass itself involved over 1,000 people from all around the world; us all taking communion together, and looking at one another in the eye as we offered one another a symbol of peace.
In San Francisco there are many more people with cans and cardboard. I learned the more there are, the easier I find it to step over them or just plain ignore them. One man juggled his can which we ignored. He then said “May God bless you.” I could not look him in the eye, and his face haunts me to this day.
Here in Wellington there are increasing numbers with cans and cardboard. Will it become harder or easier to just walk on past?
- from Philippa Fletcher, who works on policy advice (amid other things) for the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. She and her colleagues work to reduce inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand, and improve life for people who are poor and/or vulnerable.