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The poor: A Thanksgiving reflection

I recently came across a statement uttered by St. Claire of Assisi that said, “Christ chose to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that people who were in utter poverty might become rich in him by possessing the kingdom of heaven.”

I spent some time this past week pondering on St. Claire’s comments and what it may be like for the poor this time of year.

As a society, we seem to become more aware of the problems of the poor during the holidays, through social services like the annual bell-ringing done by the Salvation Army – yet at the same time, and quite ironically, we live in excess more this time of year than any other time.

Though I would never discount spontaneous acts of charity in any way, I see that things like the occasional drop of a coin only prove how incredibly disconnected, and in some ways insincere we are towards the less fortunate.

Is it not somewhat paradoxical that we will spend thousands of dollars in a shopping mall, only to drop our loose change in a can for the poor?

This is what bewilders me about Christ and how he approached the poor. His compassion was completely benevolent and selfless, something far beyond charity. He became like the poor, despised and needy, and in this act of humility replicated everything he held dear.

It is not easy following in Christ’s footsteps in the West, surrounded by an over-glorification of material gain. Yet, as we strive to get ahead, Christ strives to get behind; because those on the bottom hold everything we need to find ourselves.

I wonder if we, in our endeavors to care for poor, overlook the beauty of becoming one of them. I think we have much to learn from those who day in and out, find a way to keep going in the midst of often hopeless situations.

To be poor is something much more complicated than simply not having money. It’s a matter of dignity – of feeling deeply inadequate, neglected, and unwanted.

Maybe this year around the holidays, someone confined to the misfortune of poverty needs more than just our cash and coins. Maybe they need us to walk beside them – to breathe the air they breathe and take the steps they take.

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