Friday, November 19, 2010
A sort of a cop out post, but a post nonetheless.
Still would like to post some pictures, but am suffering from too many other things to do. Sorry for putting you on the back burner, Blog. So in order to save some time, and still be able to post and get some homework done, I have opted to just copy and paste a reflection that I wrote after reading the section on Service in Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. Enjoy.
The readings about service as a spiritual discipline for this week were quite inspirational, and resonated greatly with me. The first three readings were especially impacting, as after reading Hadewijich of Antwerp I wanted to look more into what Beguine was; reading Meister Eckhart’s interpretation of the biblical story of Mary and Martha made me rethink the whole point of the story (not the usual interpretation that paints a picture of the overly busy and critical Martha and the saintly Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet); and finally Dorothy Day inspired me to think about using my own gifts for serving the poor in my community. Though the readings were all quite short (no complaints here!), and the actual reflection may be longer than the excerpt itself, I will be reflecting on my thoughts after reading from Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness.
Even the first paragraph in the mini-biography before the excerpt was inspirational. I would love it to be said of me one day, that I was “principally remembered for [my] love of the poor…” and that my “Christianity was deeply formed by prayer and study of the Gospels.” (211) Day had a heart for the poor, and longed to be an advocate for them and try to change things for the better. Too often I feel this way, but don’t even know where to start. What gifts do I have that would really be of any use? Do I even have the resources of time and funds to do anything substantial? But looking at Dorothy Day’s biography, I can see that first and foremost, she had a heart for the poor and was rooted in devotion to serving them by prayer and study of the Gospels. It is easy to say that this can be my own reality, that heart and willingness, and building a good foundation are primary, and that skills and resources are secondary, but it is sometimes a difficult hurdle to actually get over.
Day speaks of her experience of offering hospitality to the poor; to families who are going through hard times and just need a place to stay in order to get their feet back on the ground again. She does a good job at painting a realistic picture of what it looked like for her: she had a house with eight large rooms that she welcomed families to temporarily stay in while they tried to find employment and a place to live. The house was overflowing with people in this dire situation that had nowhere else to go. People of all life situations were in it together became a small community of sorts, helping take care of each other’s children so that they could go out and find jobs. Day says of this, “Such an extreme of destitution makes all men brothers.” (212)
So many times I wonder what is the best way to combat homelessness, hunger, poverty, etc? I know that the Bible has a lot to say about loving others and taking care of “the least of these” and being generous with what has been given to you. But society says that some people want to be homeless, or that just giving them “stuff” does not help the real problem, but only perpetuates their homelessness. Some will not donate their money because they are worried about how it will be spent, or because they hear stories of people who beg for a living and then drive their fancy car to their fancy home at the end of the day. I feel like these are some extreme statements, but I have heard them all, and they definitely conflict with the Bible’s teaching to help the poor, as well as my own convictions to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
Day’s portrayal of her hospitality to the poor sounds like a wonderful plan – it helps the poor in a real, tangible way; but I do not think that it perpetuates their homelessness. Sure, there will always be those who want to milk the system, but I cannot imagine that living in one room of a house with your whole family is a situation that you would want to be in for very long. It provides both the shelter and time you need, but also gives a sense of urgency to be back on your own again.
I do not think that I am in a place right now where I can house homeless people, but I have felt a tugging at my heart to try to figure out a way to provide for them. So far, it has consisted of me cleaning out my closet on a regular basis and donating clothing and other items to various shelters or the Salvation Army (depending on my location). I think it is a good start, but lately I have also had this strange and strong desire to learn to sew in order to make blankets to donate (either directly to people or to an organization). As it is getting colder outside, and as I sit in my cozy living room with a blanket on my lap writing this reflection, I cannot even imagine having to sleep outside in the cold (or even inside for that matter, if you cannot afford to heat your house) without a blanket. I know that there are many obstacles to this:
1. I do not have a sewing machine, skills, time, resources, etc to sit and make blankets for those who need them
2. I am aware that giving someone a blanket does not necessarily help them find a job, or make rent.
But even so, I still would like to try. In the meantime, I of course can donate already made blankets and warm clothes while I learn a new skill. I can work on building my own foundation in the Lord and working on my prayer life and spending time studying the Bible devotionally. Because as Dorothy Day said, “To think that we are forced by our own lack of room, our lack of funds, to perpetuate this shame, is heartbreaking.” I think that for the remainder of this semester, I will have to stick to donating already made things. However, I can bet that one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 will be “Learn to Sew.”