Sunday, September 8, 2013

Service to Others Because of Need

A pastor of a parish called Heaven's Place, writing in the Bible Life Magazine, discusses what makes him despondent and leaves him with a bitter feeling as he goes about his task helping the poor. His parish is in a poor area of the diocese, and Mass and prayers are said in a house named Heaven's Place. Those needing something to eat are prepared meals by grandmothers; it is also a resting place for those seeking companionship, and a place for children to study. Setting up Heaven's Place allows the parish community to gather material that can be reused or sold, with the money received helping those in need, and providing school scholarships to needy students.

No one is paid to work at Heaven's Place, but they are more than volunteers, considering themselves members of a family, says the pastor.They worry together and live together, as they go about the village gathering goods that can be reclaimed to make money to continue their work for the poor. Goods that can't be returned to good use are often given to those who can use them as they are. Many different attitudes are seen by those who give their reusable items, which often leaves the pastor feeling perplexed and despondent. Though some are sorry to give items that are of so little use, wishing they had something better to give, some have so many goods they can't wait to get rid of them. All goods, nonetheless, are welcomed; they accept everything. What is bothersome to him, as he goes out to collect these items is the misplaced concern of many people. For instance, he says that when they see him making his rounds, carrying something heavy, he is often greeted with "That must be heavy, Father," as they offer to help.  But when he tells them to help a fellow worker who is struggling with an item, they often refuse. Older women in their 60s who might be having more difficulty are also shown no concern; they prefer to help him, though he is a man who needs no help. Why do they want to help him? he asks. He knows the answer and in one way he is thankful, but at the same time there is a bitter feeling. He would prefer to have persons helped because of need rather than because of  position.

He is aware of the reasons for this situation,he says. Someone is helped because he's a chairman, or because he's a doctor or a religious. It's their position in society not need that determines whether there is an offer to help, and he finds this upsetting. It need not and should not be this way, he says.
When he finds people who are helping one another and showing concern for others, he is happy. But when the concern is for him only because he is a priest, he becomes despondent, bringing to mind the words of Jesus that those who help the least fortunate members of society are also helping him. It's a reminder, he says, we all should keep in mind but this,he confesses,he says with much uneasiness.

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