Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I work downtown. Nearly every day, I walk past the poor, the destitute, the marginalized of society. I’ve learned to block it out – the glaring poverty around me. After so many years of walking downtown streets, I know how to insulate myself against it. I don’t really see them. I brush them off when they ask for change, I hurry past them when they get in my way. I rarely look in their eyes. I forget about their humanity.

I think I’m safe behind my walls. I justify my actions. “It’s best not to hand them spare change – they’ll probably spend it on alcohol or drugs.” “There are downtown ministries that can help them – I don’t have to.” “I’m doing my part for poverty overseas – I can only do so much.”

It’s so much easier to feed people in Africa. It’s easier to care for the children who don’t stumble drunk down back lanes of my downtown. It’s easier to visit their mud huts, take pictures of them, and then go home to my comfort and my table full of plenty.

I think I’m safe in my fourth floor office with my posters and brochures about ending hunger in Africa or Asia. I think I’m okay blocking out the poverty just outside my door. But then I leave the building at lunch time, open the door in a distracted state, stumble over the drunk sleeping body of one of the poor of my own city, and I find myself shaken to the core. My heart won’t stop racing.

The poor are right here. With me. Around me. And I have learned to ignore them for my lofty ideas of feeding hungry children elsewhere.

After lurching past the body on the sidewalk, I stepped inside the church next door. The priest spoke words directly to me. God cares for the poor. It may not be what he said, but it’s what I heard. Blessed are the poor. Blessed is the drunk man sleeping in my doorway.


Matt said...

Beautiful post. So true - well written FfW :)

Irene S said...

Very good post :)

Anvilcloud said...

I figure that I won't too much muss the occasional buck or two, but it can mean a lot to them. And I'm not responsible for hos they spend it. And if a little grog veils theis misery for a nanosecond, is that so bad?

Sounds like I'm prancing about throwing loonies all about. I'm not, and I should do much better.

Gina said...

I believe Heather, that God did indeed say it.

"Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth."

There is only so much one person can do, Heather. Please do not beat yourself up too badly over this.

Stephanie said...

You capture so well the duality of poverty...the "away" kind and the "home" kind. And there isn't an easy answer.

Very well written and thought provoking.

Simply Coll said...

So true. I do believe that even small contributions make a difference such as adding food to the Winnipeg Harvest boxes at the grocery store.

Bobita said...

This post touched me very deeply.

I have struggled with this same topic. Among others. I struggle with many issues...social and personal... that call upon us to use courage, integrity and kindness.

Great post.