Thursday, December 12, 2013

Who are the poor?

This Advent and Christmas season I wanted to share two passages from Mother Theresa's book No Greater Love with you. At this time of year especially, we focus on helping those less fortunate than ourselves, whether it be through Angel Trees, Salvation Army red kettles, end of the year donations, food banks, or volunteering. Unexpectedly, Mother Theresa asks us to look closer to find the poor - to see the poor close at hand, in our own lives.

p. 93
The world today is hungry not only for bread but hungry for love, hungry to be wanted, to be loved. They're hungry to feel the presence of Christ. In many countries, people have everything except that presence, that understanding.
In every country there are poor. On certain continents poverty is more spiritual than material, a poverty that consists of loneliness, discouragement, and the lack of meaning in life. I have also seen in Europe and America very poor people sleeping on newspapers or rags in the streets. There are those kind of poor in London, Madrid, and Rome. It is too easy simply to talk or concern ourselves with the poor who are far away. It is much harder and, perhaps, more challenging to turn our attention and concern toward the poor who live right next door to us.
When I pick up a hungry person from the streets, I give him rice and bread, and I have satisfied that hunger. But a person who is shut out, feels unwanted by society, unloved and terrified - how much more difficult is it to remove that hunger?
You in the West have the spiritually poorest of the poor much more than you have the physically poor. Often among the rich are very spiritually poor people. I find it is easy to give a plate of rice to a hungry person, to furnish a bed to person who has no bed, but to console or to remove the bitterness, anger, and loneliness that comes from being spiritually deprived, that takes a long time.
p. 101
 We know what poverty means, first of all, to be hungry for bread, to need clothing, and not to have a home. But there is a far greater kind of poverty. It means being unwanted, unloved, and neglected. It means having no one to call your own.
Do we know our poor people? Do we know the poor in our house, in our family? Perhaps they are not hungry for a piece of bread. Perhaps our children, husband, wife, are not hungry or naked, or dispossessed, but are you sure that there is no one there who feels unwanted, deprived of affection? Where is your elderly father or mother? Abandonment is an awful poverty.
Who are the poor in your life? Who do you know who may be feeling more alone than ever this season? A single sibling or cousin who feels like they no longer fit into their family when everyone else has married? An elderly aunt or uncle in a nursing home? A friend estranged from her own family, with nowhere to go? The couple longing for a child to share the joy of Christmas with? Many of us are ourselves poor in this way, but in recognizing our poverty and hunger, we learn what it is that we can give to one another.

If you'll excuse me, I have a great-aunt and a grandmother to go write to....

"The Lord hears the cry of the poor, Blessed be the Lord."



  1. A beautiful reflection! Thank you for pointing out a different, yet very appropriate definition of "poor."

  2. Thank-you for sharing this! I also think it's important to remember that we don't have to "cheer up" people who are sad or "fix" the situations of people, that it is our presence that is the best gift - much as Mother Teresa says "hungry to be loved, hungry to be wanted". I love that you are writing to your aunt and grandmother - truly sharing yourself with them! :)

  3. Beautiful. There will also be someone to love in our lives. That brings me so much comfort - even childless gals like us have people to love! Lots of them, in fact! My husband talks all the time about the "poor" in our lives - an elderly lady we take shopping and a disabled friend, for starters. There are probably many more that I need to find too....thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Those are awesome quotes! I have some things to think about for sure.

  5. Thank you for those quotes and for the challenge to reach out to those who are lonely . I have been having trouble being patient with a family member, and realize that they are just lonely and need someone to listen to them.