So I’ve been spending time with this family from Afghanistan.
I’m hesitant to talk about it, because I’m afraid it will sound like, “Look at me and all the good I’m doing!” Not gonna lie, there was a time before I jumped in to this adventure that might have been somewhat true. But the truth is?
The truth is I have way more fun hanging out with refugees than a happy hour with people from my same socioeconomic background. The truth is I love being with these new friends in my life from East Africa and the Middle East and at L’Arche because they know how to laugh. With them I don’t feel the need to be impressive or have my life together.
I was thinking about this as we celebrated Jean Vanier’s life a few weeks ago. Apparently he used to sit around the table at the end of the meal and throw orange peels at people, and this became a community tradition – to end the meal with orange peels and laughter.
“Little by little,” he said, “we became aware of what a cardinal in Rome told us, “You at L’Arche, you have achieved a Copernican revolution! Until now, it was said that we must do good to the poor, but at L’Arche you say that it is the poor who do you good!”
Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I’ve found this is true – not just for those who are poor in these “obvious” ways but with those who struggle with anxiety, depression, painful loss – the list could go on.
The truth is, I need the “poor.” I need them to remind me of the truth of the world we are living in. I need their laughter, their resilience, and their generosity rooted out of common empathy and struggle. When my husband and I are stressed because we can’t find affordable housing, I need what the poor can teach me, who have walked this same road for decades. When instability gives me anxiety and I struggle against a mentality of scarcity, I need the way they teach me how to hold onto hope and community even in the midst of so much unknown.
And the more I feel this – the more I know and love the poor, and even join them in some of the maddening lines at DHS and DMV, the less I want to talk about “the poor.” More and more, what I want to do is just open the doors wide and invite everyone in and say, You all need to meet each other!
Maybe someday, I will.
“And the more my world started to expand at my periphery, the more it became clear that life was more beautiful and more terrible than I had been told.”