Friday, December 27, 2013

Rethinking Matters

Life seems different after nine hours of sleep. I am realizing the extent of my fatigue and it does not come from physical exhaustion. Last night I pondered the differences between the rich and poor and I was struggling with the preferential love for the poor. The Pope speaks of this quite often and it all sounds good, but it is difficult to do in practice.

This morning, I reverted back to my simple formula. I like nice people who are courteous and respectful. Many of us try to care for the poor, and yet many do not want to receive the guidance of others who are more successful.

I think of many of my parishioners. Some sent me notices to say that they loved the Christmas celebrations; a few told me they could not make it to Mass because of their work situations. And then there were the very slim minority members who complained that they did not get exactly what they had in the past. When I think of those complainers, I can see that they are not well educated and they do nothing to improve their state in life. They do not read, they do not listen to others, they don't try to do anything that would increase their understanding levels of the complex world around them. They are very strong personalities who know how to control and manipulate situations through persistence. Employers get very angry with them and do not know how to interact with such personalities. Many people default sympathize with these poor employees, but they are unwieldy in their power and they will not do what they are paid to do. They run households because employers have given up the fight. Reasoning is not something that can be done with them and they fail to understand why they get fired repeatedly. No one tells them they act like spoiled brats.

Some of these people will adopt a prejudicial tone towards parishioners at other parishes, which they deem to be wealthy. In fact, they are not, but these people will do nothing to expand their understanding. They make themselves unlikable. The people at the other parishes are lovely and you can have a conversation and relationship with them. They are likable. I prefer people who are happy, healthy, know how to respect boundaries, have a great attitude and want to learn. Some of these people are poor; others are wealthier and it has nothing to do with income level. It has everything to do with attitude.

Fast forward to Aqaba.  This is a resort town and many wealthier people come here. The poor are on the streets. I am staying at a low-end hotel, but it has sufficient services. It is adequate and clean. The people on the street are persistent that I give them money or buy something from them. They do not understand healthy boundaries. Taxi drivers cannot comprehend that someone wants to walk for exercise; they persist that they give you six different deals. They believe that if they persist, I will be worn out. Such people can make an experience very unpleasant.

I realize I am doing this wrong. I do not have money; I have a vow of poverty and yet I can't consider myself poor. It dawned on me that people pay good money to be free of those relentless people who won't quit. I've decided that periodically, it is worth paying the price at a decent hotel to be free of these people when I need rest and relaxation. This is so far from my prior thinking.

However, I need space and beauty and respected limits. It is O.K. to be cared for every once in a while. It does not mean I am turning my back on the poor, but I need beauty and art and I realize you have to pay for it. Of course, you can find pockets of these places and wonderful people who know how to provide quality customer service, but all-in-all, it is worth paying for it once in a while. I realize I also need to dress nicely, get regular exercise, and build in sufficient time to be with people I enjoy. This will keep be invigorated. I have more thinking to do on this, but I know the direction to which I am heading. It is about time.


  1. Maybe this is why the doctor in City of Joy had to go to a nice hotel every so often to have a cocktail and feel 'human' again.
    I did a similar apprenticeship when I was working with homeless folks in viejo San Juan. Fascinating inner exploration though. Thank you for sharing yours here. xoxo

    1. Thanks, Claire. I see the value in it. It is odd to have to pay for people to treat you right, but it might be the thing to do.

  2. I think there is poverty of the body and there is poverty of the 'soul.' Those who suffer from the former can transcend its limitations; those who suffer from the latter cannot. To a large extent, physical privation can lead to this poverty of the soul, so societies should work to curb it through income redistribution and presenting opportunity to all. No one who is willing to work within the system should fail to receive adequate sustenance, etc. if there is enough to go around. Societies that do not have democracy should be moved in that direction internally and externally and those that do should be socialized to take civic responsibilities seriously. Fat and dumb and lazy has led to a gutting of the middle class in the U.S.

    It is much easier to respect other people's boundaries when one isn't constantly struggling to meet one and one's families basic needs.

    1. The difficulty is in socializing people to take civic responsibility. It must be a sustained effort from an internalized value and everyone has to participate in that common good. Alas, not all societies want this.