by Brian Vander Haak
Here in Taiwan the homeless are less visible than back home in the US. You do not see tarp villages or tents in unexpected places. This is perhaps due more to the mild climate than anything, or maybe it is evidence of the lack of access to stuff to accumulate? Here they sleep in the parks and underpasses and disappear in the morning without a trace. Most beggars on the street either sit with eyes downcast or crouch in a bow with their foreheads on the pavement. These shame positions make it easy for us. We can drop a few coins in their cups without any awkward eye contact, the need to say anything, or even to acknowledge their existence. We make room in our budget and open our wallets, but do not need to make room in our hearts and open our lives to them even for that brief moment of contact. We drizzle a little pity on them, but do not develop empathy. Compassion, I suppose and depending on your own definitions, lives somewhere in between pity and empathy but that, too, fades as we move along to our favorite restaurant or back to our comfortable home. Out of sight; out of mind.
Pope Francis addressed this issue by saying it is good to give to a beggar, but we should not think that giving stops with our cash. We should not move on “without looking at the person, and without stopping to talk, to understand what they really need.” To truly make room for them in our hearts and lives. Which really means making room for Him. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25). You know the rest. If we do not make room for the “least of these,” we are not making room for Him. Serious stuff.
Having a new grandson has again proven to me the elasticity of our hearts. Our ability to love, symbolized by this blood pumping, life-essential organ in our chests, can expand exponentially to embrace someone new without losing any capacity for those we already love.
Lord, please expand my heart daily and forgive me if I complain that it is uncomfortable.