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Filtering by Tag: compassion

What the Rich Need from the Poor

Paul Luikart

homeless I was talking to a guy at church a while ago and he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I worked with homeless men and women and his immediate response was, “They’re all drunk, right? On drugs?” I came to find out he owned his own construction business and had, in the past, employed a few homeless people to do general labor on his construction sites. He’d been burned. “They’re never on time. They don’t work hard.” That kind of stuff. This guy was wealthy. He’d built the construction business from the ground up and put a lot of hard work into it over many years. He’d seen hard times, no doubt, but now lived in a palace off Lake Shore Drive.

At the very least, he had a logic problem—extrapolating an ironclad belief about an entire demographic from the behaviors of a small percentage of that demographic. On a grander scale, what he didn’t realize is just how closely linked the rich and the poor are meant to be. The poor see this need for connection more clearly than the rich see it. At the very least, the poor are typically much more aware of what they need from the rich. But Dorothy Day went so far as to say, “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” If this is true, then a positive outcome in terms of heaven or hell necessitates an intimacy between the rich and the poor. It has to go both ways. But there’s a tragic affection common only to the rich that prevents this intimacy from forming. An affection not for stuff, like the big TVs, summerhouses and all the rest, but for privilege. Privilege allows for the unfair expectation that the poor should act like the rich if they are ever to become un-poor. It also allows for the notion that help without strings from the rich to the poor will only produce a sense of entitlement in the poor. What’s swept under the rug, in that case, is the enormous sense of entitlement possessed by the rich. The rich perceive irreversible failure in the lives of the poor but if they, the rich, are to lend their help, privilege expects conformity from the poor to an impossible standard.

By the way, I only know the guy lived in a palace off Lake Shore Drive because I ended up in a Bible study with him. Sometimes we met there. How ironic and personally irksome. Over the Word of God, I had to figure out if I could love this guy like he was my brother, if I could stand being linked to him for the sake of my own soul. I’m not rich. I’m not poor either, but my sentiments obviously favor the poor. I often wondered what he thought about my job. He and I never talked about homeless people again.

Faith, Love, Acceptance: All Summed Up in a Yogurt Shop

Travis Griffith

Travis Griffith shares a brief moment in time that, in his opinion, sums up all that is right with humanity. Does it? We'd love to hear your stories too!

Sometimes conversations about faith get so bogged down in philosophy that we forget to look at the human aspect.

We can discuss the relativity of truth and whether or not Jesus is a triune God until we throw up, then wonder if we even got anywhere.

Religious commentary and mock speeches for the pope are interesting and worthy of conversation, but what about the little moments that happen in everyday life that so often go overlooked? Sometimes that's where the answers, or at least the most valuable lessons, lie.

One of those moments happened last Tuesday when I was at a small, locally-owned frozen yogurt shop with my two kids. The shop is in a university district and frequented by college kids (especially on Tuesday nights... $1.69 mediums!).

On this night, among the throngs of nubile college co-eds, two of the oldest people I'd ever seen were there; sitting a few tables away from us. This couple had to be close to celebrating their hundredth wedding anniversary. The man, wearing a matching tweed hat and jacket, was hunched over and moving slowly. The woman was seemingly frozen in mid-bite. A folded up walker rested against the man's chair. The couple didn't say a word to each other and seemed oblivious to the incredibly diverse, laughing, chatty, text-messaging crowd that surrounded their table.

I was just amazed that the kids had enough respect to keep their distance and allow the couple to enjoy some peace. But then the frail lovers of frozen yogurt began the arduous process of getting up from the table and exiting the building. It was then that a complex choreography of absolute human beauty unfolded.

First, one of the college girls at a table next to ours nudged her friend and uttered a quiet, "Cute..." as the couple stood up. Then a man across from their table fluidly stood up, while talking on a cell phone, and in one motion unfolded the old man's walker and set it in front of him before gracefully falling back into his seat and not missing a beat in his conversation.

Walker in place, the couple put on their jackets and made their way for the door. Crowds parted to allow them access.  A customer just entering the shop stopped and held the door open for much longer than would have been necessary, allowing the couple to exit without having to lift a finger.

The couple's Cadillac was parked directly in front of the shop, but the man had to shuffle down the sidewalk until he could step off a lower part of the curb before shuffling his way back up to his car. By the time he got there and started the process of opening the passenger side door, another yogurt customer was passing by and opened it for him. The man gave a small nod before disappearing into the leather-clad abyss of the Caddy's interior.

The man's walker was still outside the car though. His wife managed to fold it up, but when she opened the back door to slide the walker in, she lost her grip on the door and it slammed shut. A customer exiting the shop with her daughter noticed, and opened the door again. She even took a moment to slide the walker onto the rear seat. The old lady smiled, held her purse in front of her chest with both hands, said thank you and began to work her way around to the driver's seat.

As the white reverse lights blinked on, I mouthed the word "wow" to myself and went on with regular conversation. Everyone else in the shop was either engaged in conversation or had thumbs flying across phone keypads. They were oblivious.

The amazing thing about this? No one who helped the couple seemed to notice the person who helped just prior. This was not inspired kindness, but pure, genuine individual compassion that when viewed from 15 feet away looked like a perfectly timed and choreographed TV commercial for human grace. It was nothing short of heart warming and inspiring.

In that little yogurt shop, and for no more than five minutes, humanity came together as one to help an elderly couple in need of a little love and assistance. Then everything returned to normal. But for that moment it didn't matter what religion anyone in that shop followed. Prejudices and orientations and races and beliefs were all overshadowed by one commonality between us all:

Pure, unconditional acceptance of humanity.

Ahh... if only the rest of life was so easy.

Have you seen any similar moments of human compassion unfold? Let's hear your stories!


Travis Griffith, who left behind the corporate marketing world, choosing family and writing in lieu of “a comfortable life” financially, is a former atheist trying to define what leading a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. captures only a fraction of his passion for fatherhood.