Dear Friends of Joseph House:
What is the greatest sin committed against the poor?
According to Franciscan priest Raniero Cantalamessa, it is indifference.
“Unfortunately, we can get used to anything in time, and we have grown accustomed to other people’s misery,” he writes in his book, Poverty. “It only affects us to a degree, we almost take it for granted as inevitable.”
It’s easy for this to happen, given that the daily news is an endless repeat of disasters and turmoil and senseless violence. Sometimes in order to cope we build a wall around our hearts, which is very understandable. We feel a need to keep the pain of other people at a distance. But these walls don’t always protect our hearts, they just let them grow cold. It becomes easier and easier to turn away from people who are poor and suffering and in dire need of assistance. And who wants the priest and Levite from the parable of the Good Samaritan to be their role models? That’s no way to live.
To help shake off our indifference, Fr. Raniero suggests we adopt a new perspective: let us look at situations “from God’s point of view for a moment, and try to see things as He sees them.”
What would that be like? We can make some reasonable guesses. When God looks at the world He sees His children. He sees each individual person as unique and beautiful, made with love and imbued with an irreplaceable dignity. God sees our diversity and differences, of course, but these are not impediments to loving us. God doesn’t see the arbitrary lines we use to divide people into categories, the end result being, whether we intend it or not, that some people are deemed worthy of our care and compassion and others less so. From God’s point of view, we belong to one human family, and it is a family where everyone is loved and cherished.
But how can we really love everyone in the world? We should keep in mind that our love for other people is measured by our desire for their good, not the depth of our feelings. Also, even though we can’t do everything for everyone, we can always do something for someone. As Jesuit Daniel Berrigan said, “The difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.”
We believe God doesn’t look at the size of our actions, just the amount of love that goes into them. Otherwise, the Joseph House would never have gotten started all those years ago. Our work continues today because people like you understand that being able to share with others is one of life’s greatest blessings.
Alyson, 27, and her three children (plus one on the way) were homeless. Alyson had been to the Joseph House before and we knew she had a difficult life. She receives $500 per month in temporary cash assistance from the state. Trying to raise a family on that amount is futile. Alyson still has a car and was hoping to get to Baltimore where a shelter was going to have an opening for her and her children in a few days. The shelter was also going to provide counseling and other forms of assistance. We gave Alyson three nights in a motel ($240), a gasoline voucher, bags of groceries, $30 cash for miscellaneous expenses, and books for her children. Her hope for a new beginning is a precious thing to keep alive.
Makayla and Owen, both in their thirties, have two daughters and a son. Their little boy is a toddler and has cancer. Makayla is also in poor health and stays home to care for him. Owen does odd jobs for their landlord. The family’s phone was cut off and their water was next. Makayla said she has applied for subsidized housing but the wait can be very long. We paid the past-due water bill of $350.
Helen, 52, and her pre-teen daughter live in subsidized housing, but it is infested with insects. We could see the bug bites on her daughter’s arm. The exterminator said it would cost $400 to clean out their house. This amount was simply beyond Helen’s reach so we agreed to pay it.
Vanessa, 61, lives alone on a fixed income. She was out of propane so she did not have hot water or a working stove. The cost to get the tank filled was almost half of her monthly check. We called the gas company and said we would pay the amount ($325).
Jane, 40, has a brain tumor and goes to Baltimore twice a week for treatment. She is only able to work part-time. Jane was behind in the rent and was worried she and her four children were going to get evicted. We called her landlord and paid the amount due ($275). Jane’s oldest son hopes to get a job soon at a fast-food restaurant so he can help support the family.
Fabiola, 30, and her five children immigrated to our country from Haiti. She is working hard at a chicken plant but still needed help paying her electric bill. We paid the balance of $240.
After a summer of oppressive heat, the arrival of “sweater weather” is a welcome change. The brisk air of early morning makes us feel renewed and energized and ready to face the day. We love being able to help people at the Joseph House, and we are so happy we can count on you as a faithful friend to those in need. You are always in our prayers.
The joy of our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, was to love people who seemed unlovable. On October 27 it will be 17 years since she departed this life to be united with God forever. We hope and pray that we honor her memory in all that we do.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
We have made some updates to our website. Please take a look to read profiles and see photos of the members of our community.
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