Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Recognizing and remembering the poor
“Go in Peace. Remember the poor.” Those were the closing words at our worship service on Sunday. Having lead the adult forum at church the previous Sunday these words put me in a state of holy unrest. I couldn’t help but be reminded of our recent forum, where it was clear that for many, perhaps most of us, we had little or no contact with the poor. So, I pondered, perhaps it would be better proclaimed, “Go in peace. Get to know the poor.”
One of the attendees at the forum, a retired missionary well into his 80’s, commented on how he likes to take the city bus. It puts him into contact with many folks he would not otherwise meet in the confines of his retirement community in Robbinsdale. What an inspiration he was for the rest of us, who are often weary of going outside of our comfort zones.
Yesterday I rode my bike to get groceries at the store. On the way home, with a backpack filled with milk, eggs, butter and salami I encountered a homeless person on the street corner. In fact, it was someone about whom I had just read in an article, “Homelessness touches the suburbs”, just a week earlier. I was pleased to see an article that put a face on this gray bearded homeless man, Ken, living in our community.
I stopped to visit Ken. I noted that I had seen his picture and story in the local newspaper. He said he’d heard about it, but hadn’t seen a copy of the paper. I reassured him that it was a nice article. He asked if I could please get him a copy. I apologized, saying though I would try, my copy had just been picked up with recycling earlier in the day. He noted that he’s visiting with a social worker to get veterans benefits. This might get him off the street.
Before I left him, Ken again suggested he would be appreciative if I could find him a copy of the article about him in the newspaper. He then shared with me the location where he keeps the plastic five gallon pail that he sits on, and which contains his worldly goods. If I could get him a copy of the article, that's where he would like it delivered.
I provided a bit of financial support to Ken. He expressed his heartfelt appreciation. He said that he was then going to be heading out to get something to eat.
While biking home, just a few blocks down, I noticed a slim orange bag along the roadside. It looked like the sort of bag that holds the local newspaper. I wheeled around to check and see if by chance it was the most recent paper. Sure enough, it was the one with a picture and story of my a new acquaintance, Ken, on the cover.
I quickly road back to where he had been sitting. Ken had already evacuated the site. I found the bucket, to which he had given me directions earlier, and put my newly found copy of the paper inside.
Go in Peace. Get to know the poor.