One sleepless stretch of night in winter of 2013, I pondered the fact that I used to interact, on a semi-regular basis, with homeless people. Or maybe people who had homes, but were hurting enough to accept a free meal in the interest of serving “the poor.” Such interactions took place at Breakfast in the Park, an outreach with the church I belonged to in Bakersfield, California. People appreciated the food, for sure. One regular called our predictable menu of bacon and egg burritos, coffee and juice “The Rose Bowl” of the many church-sponsored feedings. This made us smile. But the point of it all was to get to know people, to sit and talk and listen, not just plop food on the plates as they came through. The monthly discipline of Breakfast in the Park kept me grounded. It put me in touch with reality — maybe not the worst of situations in the world, but a reality I might not see if I only surrounded myself with people familiar, useful and comfortable to me.
There are plenty of feedings here, in the Boston area. But this time, I felt a desire to connect the act of writing to my yearning for a different kind of human interaction. Each interview is an attempt to tell someone’s story, with an emphasis on those stories that may often go unheard.
This project has expanded my definition of the “poor” to include more than just those without little or no money. Instead, I take it to mean overlooked, misinterpreted, or avoided. Often, people of low economic status fit into the above categories. But those with any amount of money can fit into them. I’m thinking more of the “poor in spirit” of whom Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. There are many interpretations of this phrase. To me, it is anyone experiencing a lack in his or her life that has become a constant companion — whether that lack is financial, emotional or spiritual. Yes, we are all poor in spirit. Some just show it more than others.
I want to acknowledge the poor in spirit in me, and those around me. Month after month, my prayer has been, “Lord, let me see myself and my life as You do.” Through talking with people I might otherwise pass by, I hope to extend toward others the mercy I’ve been seeking from God and from myself.