I grew up in a city. A normal sized city with huge downtown offices, museums, indie band venues, historic theaters, a major league baseball team, and some not so great parts of town. I loved going to free concerts, cool coffee shops, and of course baseball games with my friends in high school and college.
Whenever I would go somewhere in the city with my friends, we were bound to pass by at least one homeless person sleeping on a bench or pushing a shopping cart with packed with everything they owned walking on the side of the road. My heart always went out to these people, and I would usually pray a silent “Hail Mary” for them while I was on my way to wherever I was going. But that was the extent of my interaction with the homeless. I barely saw their faces, and never knew their names or stories.
Last year, I moved to a super small town just slightly north of the middle of nowhere for my formation year in Life Teen Missions. I liked the town well enough, but there was a definite lack of skyscrapers and museums, and for that matter, homeless people. There was poverty for sure, but I never saw a person actually living on the streets.
Fast forward to this year. I live in a city again. Now my weekly commute includes passing by high-rises and homeless people. This time, however, I have been able to do more than pray silently for them.
My entire mission team in Houston made a commitment to each other to reach out to the poor and the homeless every chance we get. We carry bottles of water, granola bars, and blankets in our car for anyone who may be in need. But more than that, we commit to asking the homeless their names and how we can specifically pray for them.
And this year, the poor and homeless have blessed me.
I see Paula and Kathy, a mother and daughter, every two weeks or so downtown to get food from a Catholic food bank. Sometimes their friend Ruben comes and waits in line with them, too. Paula and Kathy love Chihuahuas and Mexican food. Whenever I see them, we give each other big hugs and catch up on each other’s lives!
One woman, Felicia, is raising four boys. She doesn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak much Spanish, but she is always patient when I ask her questions about her life when I see her on Saturdays. I have learned she loves to sing, she prays and goes to Mass every Sunday, and her family used to raise cows in South America, but she has never ridden a cow.
Then there is Goddess. A beautiful and bold woman who approached me and another missionary asking for a bottle of water and some toiletries we had that day. She told us she was Christian, but she didn’t have a Bible so we gave one to her. When we asked if we could pray with her, she not only agreed, she led us all in prayer and prayed for our needs as missionaries.
The homeless have become more to me than just a group to be charitable to or to pray for. These women have become my friends, my prayer partners, and my Spanish tutors.
Pope Francis recently said, “There is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.” Kathy, Paula, Goddess, and Felicia have become a part of my community the same way the youth ministers and teens I serve have become a part of my life.
They are truly my sisters in Christ.
They have reminded me that each person is part of the Body of Christ, rich or poor. These women remind me of God’s patience with me whenever Felicia waits for me to remember a word in Spanish… of His constant care for me when Goddess prays for me, and His love for me when Paula and Kathy smile when I show up.
They have given me what cannot be bought or sold: an opportunity to love and be loved. And that ladies and gentlemen, inspires me.
Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a series of blogs that relate to our 2014 theme Inspire[d]. If you would like to submit about a blog about an Inspire[d] story that you have, please see these guidelines.