True Poverty

(Here it is: my first post on my new blog–a blog I paid for. I feel this tremendous pressure to write something brilliant, something deep, something meaningful. I need to make every word count…I hope it doesn’t disappoint (me))

Throughout my life, I have admired the work and wisdom of Mother Teresa–Saint Teresa in recent years. I am not Catholic and do not fully believe in the Catholic Doctrine, but I’ve always wanted to be like her. She had a true servant’s heart, an unmatched faith, a simple life, and a resume that would prove all of that a million times over. I have no doubt when she met God at the pearly gates, He said “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

One of the things I always loved about her work and one of the reasons I wanted to become a nun at one point was to live a simpler existence and truly make a difference in the lives of others. It sounded glamorous to leave this first-world country and its problems behind, move to the third world, and perform simple but meaningful acts such as bathe and feed the poor, homeless, and dying, give them some dignity by showing them someone cares, and allow them to transition into the next life with peace of mind and soul.

The details I wasn’t entirely sure of. The struggles I’d never predict. And the Catholic faith’s focus on poverty and the poor wasn’t something I completely understood. I just dreamed of leaving all the first-world difficulty behind and walking away from the hustle and bustle of the money-chasing, drama-loving sinfulness of our culture and people for that of humans with legitimate, basic needs. It sounded much better to feed, clothe, house, and pray for the sick, homeless, and dying rather than deal with and be forced to interact with spoiled, mean-spirited people who don’t seem to lack any basic needs. The day would be certainly different if we could all choose who we spent it with. Amen.

Back to the poor–

As I said–I never understood the faith’s focus on the poor…until recently. I always thought the poor have it easier than the rest of us because they have fewer distractions, fewer responsibilities, and fewer things to get between them and God. They are more thankful for what little they receive, and they see more miracles than anyone because their positions in life never give them reasons to be proud, boastful, or think they don’t need God due to any perceived power, riches, or money in their possession. They never see themselves as gods. I saw the poor as God’s favorite, His chosen people. Thinking the focus of all organized religion is money, and believing that the Catholic Church probably has most of it, I understood the focus on the poor–or so I thought. What I didn’t realize was I did not fully understand the meaning of poor. As a middle-class white girl in a first-world country, my thoughts when thinking of the poor were strictly based on money and material possessions. This was the error in my thinking.

During a recent trip to California, I found a cute used bookstore in Hillcrest, San Diego, called Bluestocking Books. I had gone in there several times, trying to convince myself I had enough room in my bag or suitcase to purchase a thing or two to take with me. Books have always been a guilt-free purchase with me, and I didn’t want to go home having spent all my money on food. Upon my third trip to the store, while trying to decide which book to buy, I came across another Mother Teresa book called One Heart Full of Love. Aside from the fact it was my third trip, and three is a holy number, I love to read anything and everything on/about/with Mother Teresa. There was no decision to make. It was a no-brainer. And looking back, I know it was a divine appointment and a book I was meant to purchase.

Throughout this book, Mother Teresa talks about the poor. She tells us of some of the work she has done then asks us if we are taking care of our poor. She asks us if we know our poor, recognize them, and see and meet their needs. She points out that the poor could be in our own families, live in our houses, be our neighbors, our coworkers, and so on. She then says the most profound, honest thing about poverty and the poor I have ever heard. It definitely pulled on my heartstrings and gave me an understanding I didn’t even know I was looking for.

She said “It seems to me that this great poverty of suffering in the West is much harder to solve. When I pick up some starving person off the street and offer him a bowl of rice or a piece of bread, I can satisfy his hunger. But a person that has been beaten or feels unwanted or unloved or fearful or rejected by society–that person experiences a kind of poverty that is much more painful and deep. Its cure is much more difficult to find.”

It was then I understood what they meant by poor. It was then I realized so many more people are poor and suffer from poverty than I thought. It was then I realized I am one of them. With tears running down my face, I related to this more than I was ever willing to admit. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve always felt like one who’s been rejected by society–for many reasons I won’t go into right now. But I know that pain and it sucks. And I feel for everyone who can relate to any of this.

What can we do about it? How do we deal with the spiritually poor? Feeling the pain as its truth stared me in the face, I want to solve the problems of others. I want to take away their pain. I want to share their burdens and let them know they are not alone. How can this be done? The first thing I know to do is to pray.

“The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him sincerely.” (Psalm 145:18)

If you suffer from spiritual poverty or can relate to any of these problems, take heart. Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mathew 5:3)

Mother Teresa believed the beginning of love is a smile. Let’s start there. Smile at your neighbors. You’ll never truly know how poor they are.

Goodnight. Much love. God Bless. And many, many smiles.


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