I’ve been carrying a lovely "blessing" around with me, on the desktop of my computer and in my briefcase, so that I see and contemplate it often. I obtained it from a young woman who had performed mission work in Central America; she did not know who might have written it. Frankly, the anonymity makes it almost more poignant than if I knew the writer’s identity. I like to reflect on the words and their implications.
Blessing for the Poor
May we be blessed with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths and superficial relationships
so that we will live deep in our hearts.
May we be blessed with
anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people and the earth.
so that we will work for justice, equity and peace.
May we be blessed with
tears to shed for those who suffer
so we will reach out our hands to comfort them
and change their pain to joy.
And may we be blessed with
the foolishness to think
that we can make a difference in this world
so that we will do the things which others say cannot be done.
Over the many months in which I’ve carried this, it has served as a reminder to me of the many wonderful, inspiring people I’ve met in Nicaragua. I have thought of our many partners when reading these lines, calling to mind the immense poverty in which most of them live, the needs to be met, and the tremendous obstacles that prevent them from experiencing all that they are capable of being. It has made me mindful of the poor, but when I read it again today, it caused me to think about precisely who the poor really are.
For all these months, I have read the blessing from the vantage point of the one blessed, of one who has been granted all the opportunities and material comforts about which any human could reasonably dream. I have regarded the poor, therefore, as the ones with whom I visit several times each year, in the midst of their overwhelming material needs. But for whatever reason, today I reversed the roles in this blessing; I was both astonished and mortified at my epiphany!
Today I read myself in the role of the poor, the one in need, as one who is impoverished. Not in material ways, but in the ways of the spirit and servanthood. Instead of seeing myself as a favored one who has the power and the means to bring "rescue" to the needy, I could suddenly discern that my Nicaraguan brothers and sisters are the ones on whom I must lean, to pull myself out from the weight of a life that has been too narrow, self-absorbed and quite oblivious to the real needs in the world.
This blessing is for the poor. But I have required months to recognize that the subject of the blessing is each of us. In our own ways, we are all impoverished and desperately in need of what others can give to us. Those needs may be material, they may be of the spirit, they may be of the intellect. But the holistic health of the entire world is dependent upon what each of us gives, not receives. Poverty is simply the measure of what it is that each of us lacks, and thus, what we need from each other.
We are all in immense poverty of some sort, having needs to be met, and beset with tremendous obstacles that prevent us from experiencing all that we are capable of being. It’s funny how familiar words can so suddenly be understood in a very different light, just by virtue of the company we keep….