"But God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong...If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise."
-I Corinthians 1:27,18
-I Corinthians 1:27,18
"May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done"
- Franciscan Blessing
- Franciscan Blessing
A few days ago I had a dream. In my dream I walked into a dark office full of filing cabinets. At the bottom of one of the walls was a safe built into the wall, which I happened to have a fey for. I opened the safe and it was a door which led to stairs going down into an even darker place. I did not hesitate and walked boldly through the door to whatever awaited. In the basement were more filing cabinets. Over time I brought visitors down there, people I knew who I wanted to show this fascinating place to. On one of these visits there were strong men moving the filing cabinets. I knew these men were supposed to be evil, but I didn't pay any attention to that and thought they were nice for moving those cabinets. A voice spoke, whether it was my own voice or someone else's, I do not know: "Evil that appears good is still evil."
When I woke up, I went to Mother House and told Sister Mercy Maria about my dream.
"The journey within is the most difficult," she told me.
This is part of the layer-peeling process God is putting me through. I am delving deep within myself to discover the dark places, the places hidden behind locked safes and filing cabinets, the place I allow evil disguised as good to dwell.
"I am frustrated with the men who constantly look at me with evil intentions and yell out to me and try to touch me. I'm frustrated with the poor, the street families who may or may not be living on the street by choice, by the constant begging I walk by everyday," I told Sister. "I don't even look anyone in the eye because all they do is ask from me and all I do is tell them 'no'. How do I deal with this? How do I give, what do I give, what do I do?"
"Look them in the eye," she replied, "Bless them with God's blessing. Find moments of solidarity with the poor. Use the squat toilet instead of the western toilet. Use water instead of toilet paper. Those are moments of solidarity, understanding the life of the poor."
Don't laugh (well, ok, you can laugh, but don't tell me you laughed at me), but as an experiment in solidarity, I left the house yesterday without anything except the clothes on my back. My friend wanted me to go souvenir shopping with her, and I knew I would want to buy unnecessary things, so I left my purse at home. The poor carry very little with them around here.
To every person who asked from me I showed them I had nothing to give them, I said a prayer, and kept walking. They would usually lose interest in me after they saw I had nothing on me and turn to my friends with bags and beg from them.
My friend did her shopping, and it took us such a long time that by the end of our shopping, I was extremely hungry. I hadn't brought any money though, so the only option would be to walk the 25 minutes back to the house to get food. As shopping in India is relational, the men at the shop continued to chat with us even though my friend had been ready to pay for a while. One of the workers saw I was tired and asked why. "I'm just hungry," I told him. "We need to get going so we can go eat." "No! I'll give you rice!" He said, and he ran off and brought me a plate of rice and daal (spicy sauce that goes on rice). The Lord provided for my small gesture of solidarity. It may be small and silly, but it was a step.
I have started reading quite a bit about St. Francis, who is quickly becoming my favorite saint. I have started reading The Little Flowers, about the beginnings of the Franciscan order, men who forsook all for Christ, living in community or in hermitages to lead lives of contemplation and prayer.
"...aim at converting yourselves and you will then find you understand things better." - from I, Francis by Carlo Carretto.
I still do not understand how to relate to the poor here. There are so many facets of poverty that it is hard to know what to do. Some street kids/families are run by the mafia, others choose to beg instead of work (even though they are capable) because they make more money begging than working, and yet, still others are truly poor, truly in need of charity and generosity.
Yesterday coming out of church, my friend Theresa and I were bombarded by a group of what could have been street kids, yet they seemed too well dressed and chubby to be such. Nevertheless, they overwhelmed us, grabbing my waterbottle, trying to yank it out of my hands, nearly knocking me over. One of them reached into Theresa's purse and grabbed out the keys to her apartment and ran down the street with them. She stood looking at him, dazed, holding out her hand, hoping he would bring them back. Eventually, he did. They continued to clamor around us, demanding we buy them ice cream. They pushed and pulled us, grabbing our clothes, hanging on to our arms, trying to drag us down. We reached the other side of the street and a security guard shooed them away telling us they were pickpockets.
Yet, while those kinds of stories make up the majority of my experiences with the poor on the streets, there are other, less frequent moments that remind me of love and compassion.
On our way to dinner, we passed an old woman sitting on the urine, feces, insect ridden sidewalk, begging. As the group walked on, I stopped and reached into my bag for some biscuits (Nilla Waffer type things) which I kept there for just this type of occasion. I reached down and handed her the biscuits. She pressed her palms together as if to pray, and brought them to her forehead in the sign of blessing/greeting. I did the same and walked quickly to my friends up ahead. On our way back from dinner, she still sat in the same place, but when she saw me, her wrinkled face lit up and she began waving enthusiastically. I waved back, smiled, and bowed my head and hands in her direction. If only serving all the poor were that simple, that gratifying.
Pray for me friends. I obviously need it.
Pray that I become little, foolish, and simple. I am convinced that is the way of Christ, God in human form who was born to an unwed teenage mother in a barn, who chose ordinary fishermen and tax collectors as followers, who had dinner with prostitutes and thieves, who entered his death not with a shout of victory, but silence and agony. I am convinced God wants me to be little to understand His greatness.
"The Gospel is the madness of a God who is always losing, who gets himself crucified to save humanity. The Gospel is the madness of people who, in the midst of tears, need, and persecution, still cry out that they are blessed...so I called on madness to save me. And I was happy to have found the true madness, the saving madness of the Gospel." - I, Francis