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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Poverty and Bread

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." Jn 6:27

Only recently returned from Kenya and Tanzania, praying about today's scriptures came easily. All of us on pilgrimage were fed in ways we could not have anticipated or expected so that when Jesus reminds his disciples not "to work for food that perishes," the text resonates immediately.

Pilgrimages are about relationships with others on pilgrimage and the people upon whom you rely and meet along the way. Of course, this is true for all of us in life, but it is even more apparent when one travels in the developing world. Moving from place to place, sometimes so simple and efficient in the United States, is almost never easy in East Africa. There are "jams" (traffic jams to us) everywhere getting in and out of cities and it regularly took us more than two hours to travel eight kilometers.

There are, however, advantages to this kind of travel if you are not the driver. Creeping from place to place one has the opportunity to see much more and realize that there is a hierarchy of poverty in Africa that is startling.

Some poor people have only huge woven bags with which they travel the streets and fill with bottle caps and plastic wrappers. Others have simple wagons that they pull with impossibly heavy burdens. Still others might have a mule or a bike that allows them to carry whatever they have collected for recycling and resale.

Seeing the faces of people like this as one rides in relative comfort is challenging to say the least. Impatient, hot and annoyed that it takes so long to travel short distances, one must take a deep breath and pray. God invites pilgrims to listen to the cry of the poor along the way, and speeding from place to place would make this impossible.

Today, try not to rush and let the lives of the poor you encounter inform your prayer.

How do you manage the reality of poverty and poor people in your life?

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