If each of us would spend a little time thinking and reflecting, I believe that we can name a person or a group of people or a class of people who are lying outside our door. It might be hard to admit, but it might be possible that there is someone or a group of people or a class of people that we have written off — that we simply ignore — or who we so stridently disagree with — that it is as if they really do not exist. We close our eyes, we shut off our ears, we cross the street —- or we no longer even notice them.
I recently had a business encounter with someone who needed to have some basic background information before I met with the person I really needed to see. The person taking the information showed ZERO CONCERN for me as I sat with her as she was typing information into the computer. Question — answer — type. Next question — answer — type. I tried to inject some conversation into the dialogue. NO INTEREST. Now maybe she was having a bad day — maybe something was happening in her personal life that caused her to “shut down.” But the point is obvious: It seems that I could have been male or female, young or old, black or white — she had a job to do, ask questions, get information and move on to the next person. It is not the way I would want people to think of me in interaction with them.
The sin of the man in the Gospel [Luke 16:19-31] is not that he is wealthy – there is no sin there. His sin is not that he was cruel to the man. His sin is not that he refuses to help the man. His sin is that he NEVER NOTICED THE MAN. He walked by, day by day, never seeing the man right there in front of him. We cannot be that way with those at our door.
Statistics can be cold and even misleading. When we say that 15% of the American population lives in poverty — we really do not get a clear picture of what this means. But, when I say there are 46.5 million people living in poverty, the picture becomes a little clearer. And then, when I say — since there are 4.5 million people living in Louisiana — it would take 10 states with the population of Louisiana to house all those in poverty, the picture becomes even clearer. Every man, woman, and child —- ten times over to “house” those in poverty —- wow!
Our first scripture reading [Amos 6, 1, 4-7] calls down “woe” upon those who are complacent …. those who live in comfort with no knowledge or concern about those who lack basic necessities.
Reading a number of papers, I have noticed that many communities are seeing more and more people come to various food banks looking for help. Food banks and food pantries are running very low on supplies and doubt that they can last until the traditional giving season around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Giving at Thanksgiving and Christmas is noteworthy and worthy. Maybe we are being called to help stock these shelves monthly because hunger is constant. Yes, some people play the system — but the food pantries I have worked with are getting pretty “professional” in catching the scammers. Children who eat breakfast at school are not doing so just because they have lazy mothers who did not get up to fix breakfast — there are too many households who lack proper nourishment for their kids.
I will soon get my flu shot — free because my insurance provides it. But, there are 48 million uninsured Americans in the US. As I have written recently — the Affordable Health Care Act, aka “ObamaCare”, might not be the answer. Then, what is? Perhaps a donation to a local health agency — or rides to a neighborhood clinic — might get more people inoculated.
In speaking to a group of new bishops recently, Pope Francis told them that a good shepherd picks up the “odor” of his sheep. In other words, we cannot be a disciple in the world and have a Teflon heart, rubber gloves, and a rubberized suit.
While we work to upgrade our educational system and while we work to provide healthcare to people in need — a basic commitment of all of us could be to make sure that people have enough to eat.
As individuals, as families, as Church communities, as Dioceses — we must see the need before us, figure out what we can do, and then do something.