I think I forgot about poor people, or at least forgot that the only reason I will ever escape utter poverty is by recognizing the impoverished state of my own existence. There is a necessary despair that is contingent on being an embodied being; there is no earthly system that will ever afford a person any sort of meaning outside of her own myopia.
I suppose then when I say, “I think I forgot about poor people” what I mean is: I think I forgot that the opulence of my life has nothing to do with having two cars and white skin.
After having that token third world experience, it’s super easy to compartmentalize that terrifying reality of physical poverty and unpack all the ways I justify my own, cushioned lomativities. I’m pretty good at it at this point. After all, I’m a seasoned short-term missions tripper.
But the funny, backwards notion of the shallow thrill that having things provides always speaks the loudest in my reflections. I think what I miss most when Paul says to “consider it pure joy brothers and sisters, when you face [all the ish that living on earth involves]” is that my joy can’t have anything to do with happiness. What if joy became synonymous with hope though?
I’m pretty sure I could consider it pure hope when I hit a rough patch, and hope will never cease to shatter my worldview in the most jubilant way because my hope abides in the Eternal. When looked at like this, all of a sudden that Pauline reprimand becomes, “Consider it a beckoning call into the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven when you face trials of many kinds.”
Last night a dude named Pablo told us he had vision for the people of El Salvador, his home. Pablo has seen more ish than I will ever see in my entire life, and yet the hopeful fulfillment that was leaking through the broken english spilling from his lips hit me like ice water after an unfathomably hot and humid day in the tropics. It was refreshing, but it was also chilling, it gave me a brain freeze.
He didn’t want stuff; he craved the interaction that Jesus calls us to; he craved to see chains of injustice broken, the oppressed set free, the cords of the yoke untied, the hungry fed. The end game: “Your light will break forth like the dawn and the Glory of The Lord will be your rear guard.” Hope. Thats rich. One day I hope to be as far from poverty as Pablo was in that moment. He is a wealthy man.
Ryan Shoemaker is a junior philosophy and sculpture double major. He enjoys the “Princess Bride” and worthless collections. Secretly he wishes he could drop out of school and join a remote monastic tradition but his mother would be heartbroken and his father wants him to get a degree. So it goes.