Dear Friends of Joseph House:
When we consider people in need—”the poor”—we may focus on how they’re different from us.
Do we ever consider how we’re the same? Does that change how we want to respond to them?
Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth once shared a story from the early days of the Joseph House in Baltimore. She was interviewing a mother who had requested help paying a heating bill:
[The mother] had just explained her need for $60 to pay a gas bill. I acknowledged the importance of such a need and then very professionally began to list her expenses alongside of her welfare income. Somewhere she had $50 she could not account for and I worried her with questions.
Finally we arrived at the truth: she had spent the fifty dollars on a coat for her three-year-old, trusting she would get money for her gas from us.
I pointed out that she had made a very unwise decision. She looked at me and with a great look of pride on her face and a sense of accomplishment in her voice she said, “I guess I did, but for once in her life my little girl was the best dressed girl in Sunday School. It won’t never happen again—but for just once the best dressed girl was my little girl.”
I felt her pride, I knew it would live forever in her heart—that great memory. I paid her gas bill and was happy to do it. I felt that it was my little girl that had captured a respect she would never again know.
When we identify with people as people, as fellow human beings who have their hopes and dreams, who have inner lives that are as rich and complex and precious as our own, then our sense of compassion begins to enlarge. “I felt her pride….I felt that it was my little girl.” Sr. Mary Elizabeth had a natural ability to get close to people. She could easily place herself in the shoes of another, a consequence of an open heart not put off by appearances.
Beneath the mystery of each person there is a deeper one. In her excellent book on the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, Hidden in God, Bonnie Thurston writes:
We must learn to see beyond people’s “packaging,” for example, the accidents of birth, education, taste, and culture. We must learn to live beyond our own narrowness in those same areas, our preferences and prejudices.
Charles de Foucauld wrote: “To be able to truly see others, we must close our physical eyes and open the eyes of our souls. Let us see what they are from within, not what they appear to be. Let us look at them in the same way as God looks at them.” In so looking, Foucauld believes we see Jesus….
Writing on February 5, 1916, nearly at the end of his life, Foucauld recommends: “Be kind and compassionate, and do not be insensitive to any misery. See Jesus in all people.”
For Charles, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, it was the presence of Christ in each person that ultimately unites everyone. He looked at people “in the same way as God looks at them,” and that changed his life. Charles lived as a “universal brother” to all people—Christian, Muslim, atheist, European, African—and freely shared what he had with those in need. His was the vision of all the saints, canonized or not.
To see Christ in everyone means to treat each person with respect. It means to affirm the dignity of all people as being made in the image and likeness of God. That’s the overriding mission of the Joseph House, whether we are helping a family with a pressing financial need, washing the clothes of a homeless person, feeding empty stomachs, or accompanying a resident in our Workshop program as he builds a better future. Your support brings this mission to life.
When people have nowhere to turn, the Joseph House is here for them. Caroline, 37, worked in a restaurant for four years. She liked her job, but she started to receive unwanted and aggressive physical advances. Caroline finally left. She has four children, although their father ignores every court order for child support. With no income and no other options, Caroline asked the Joseph House for help paying her electric bill. It was the day before the electric was scheduled to be shut off. We called the power company with our commitment of $250, and the shut-off was canceled.
Sabrina, 58, can barely walk because of arthritic knees. Her income is $194 per month in temporary disability. Were it not for subsidized housing, she would be homeless. Sabrina needed help paying her electric bill—if the power was shut off she would jeopardize her housing subsidy. We paid the $200 bill immediately.
Ellen, 72, doesn’t have subsidized housing, and her rent takes 95% of her income! She is frail and not in good health. Her electric bill was overdue, but she did not qualify for assistance in her county. She came to the Joseph House and we paid $200. Ellen hopes to find a roommate to share expenses. Since affordable housing is so scarce that seems to be her only hope.
Kenny, 68, lives in one of the worst neighborhoods in the area in terms of substandard housing. We’ve been in those houses before—you can smell the decay. Kenny has cancer and is being treated with chemo and radiation. He normally works odd jobs to supplement his income, but he hasn’t been feeling up to it. He was behind in his rent and received an eviction notice. We paid $225 to stop the proceedings. We really wish there was more affordable housing, places that are clean and safe, especially for seniors and those with health problems!
Matthew, 51, worked for a food company for 21 years. His struggle with a debilitating depression required him to stop working. His wife Ann works in a nursing home. Her income doesn’t cover all of their basic expenses, and she is looking for a second job. After falling behind in their rent, the couple applied for assistance at the Department of Social Services. They qualified only for food stamps. We sent $220 to their landlord to give Matthew and Ann time to sort out their new circumstances.
To continue our work we need help. We need you. Thank you for being generous.
July is the anniversary month for the Little Sisters. On the 7th we celebrated 45 years! As the years roll by we hope to stay young at heart just like Sr. Mary Elizabeth. The example she gave us is a treasure, and we hope and pray to be faithful to her vision for our community. May God bless us with more vocations, and may God bless you with an abundance of love and peace.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Praying for people is a special—and much loved—part of our ministry. Please feel free to trouble us with your troubles and whatever is in your heart. What would you like us to pray for?
• restored health
• medical bills
• spiritual and emotional welfare of a loved one
• safe pregnancy and birth
• selling a house
• job search
• happy marriage
• freedom from anxiety and depression
• respect for all life
• safety of a loved one in the armed forces
• government leaders
• pastors and church leaders
• justice for all
• lasting peace…
Please use our Contact Form to send your prayer request.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16
Please let us know if the images in this post are not visible. We have been having some technical difficulties.