Friday, November 13, 2009

Our Option for the Poor, a Work of Justice

Many of our parishes in Korea have programs that serve the larger community in an area that there is a felt need. This is often determined by surveys and questionnaires. There are kindergartens, school programs for those who have to work during the day, study rooms, teaching of English, the parish close to us has a dry cleaning service for the poor and the truck makes the rounds of the area. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is very active in many parishes.

A pastor wrote up the work he did to help travelers and street people in a parish he was at some years ago. They had a place to wash their clothes and take a bath. He remembers a street person who in May took off 16 pieces of clothing to ready himself for a bath. There was so much dirt that the priest said the drain was actually clogged. After finishing his bath he took out 10 dollars and gave it to the priest. He was told there is no charge for the use of the facilities but he insisted, and told the priest to use it to do some good. The priest thought he was so thankful because some one had accepted him and treated him kindly and showed this by his offering.

There was another street person, a young man, that came to the bath facility who finally did get a job delivering newspapers, and slept at the agency. Sometime later he again appeared at the bath room. The priest asked why he again went back to the street life. He said he was lonely sleeping and eating by himself. He missed the companionship of the street....

This service to the poor was not seen by all the members of the community in a positive way. "What is the need to help these people?" " They have not earned the right to be helped." Those who needed to be helped are those that are useful to society, apparently, was the criterion for helping.

It is sometimes difficult to ascertain how others look upon what is being done for the poor. Many have the very common idea that we bring upon ourselves the problems that befall us. This may be true in many cases and for many this is sufficient reason to refuse help and give the help to those who are more worthy. These people are just lazy and need to be treated in a way that will get them to snap out of this dependence on others.

There are so many variables that have to be considered and we just don't have the competence to judge who is worthy or not worthy of our help. Our Lord was very persistent in telling us not to judge. A person that needs help is needy and we should do all we can to relieve his or her need. We are told that we can not understand another person until we have walked in their shoes. This is a good advice and should makes us less judgmental and more merciful of the alienated in society.

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