In Appreciation of the Human Spirit
Nov 12, 2018
When I was in my second year of theology (2nd post college year) I had my first experience of abject poverty. I had been sent to the Archdiocesan mission in Venezuela for the month of January. In the last week of the visit we traveled to Caracas (the capital city). At that time this was a very wealthy city. On the outskirts of the city there was a large rising squatters area. It was built on the city dump. It was a separate city of the poor. There was no running water, no plumbing and the housing was built of cardboard boxes with metal roofs. The sewage flowed from the top to the bottom of this little city so that those living at the base lived in a very unhealthy, smelly, and terrible environment.
We took a day to visit this area. The most remarkable experience I had throughout the entire trip took place that day. As we entered into this poverty stricken area we were greeted very warmly. Every person we met wanted to share what little food they had with us. They asked nothing from us, but instead wanted us to visit their squalid houses and share time with them. Although I had experienced the warmth of the Venezuelan people throughout my visit, this generous spirit overwhelmed me. How could these so very poor people be so generous to us? One of our guides explained to us: “they have nothing, so it is very easy for them to share what they have. If they have food today they will share with everyone, the rest of the week they may grow hungry.”
This experience gave me a profound appreciation of the freedom that comes from becoming more dependent on God than on oneself. I have been grateful throughout my life that I have not had to live this way (I do not know if I would handle it well and as Saint Paul reminds us: God gives us what we can handle) but I grew in true appreciation of the human spirit that day. The widows mite gospel story of this week is yet another reminder of what we are capable of doing.