Three days after moving into our home last May, we discovered a couple of tiny, abandoned kittens in our yard. Of course, my 9 and 11 year-old daughters believed this was providential. My wife and I had other words for it. We had said no to pets the past five years while living in Phoenix. We had promised the girls that they could finally have pets when we moved to Pennsylvania. So, you guessed it, we took them in. And within a few months, we had a puppy as well. Our home most certainly feels complete now!
Yesterday, another homeless cat came meowing on our porch. The girls fussed over it and commented on how scrawny it was. Inevitably, the question was posed, “Can we keep it, please Daddy?” When I explained how there are millions of homeless kitties in this world just like it and how we can’t take care of them all, my eldest had an immediate, heartfelt response –
“But Daddy, we don’t know them; we know this one.”
“We know this one”
What a profound truth she understood. It has some validity in the world of kittens, but it holds much more weight in the world of impoverished people! As long as we talk about ‘the poor’ in the same way we refer to ‘veterans’ or ‘Muslims,’ it’s fairly easy to remain indifferent in my response to them. It’s a class of millions of people I can’t do much for. It’s when I know a person trapped in poverty, that compassion more easily becomes my response.
God knows I’m like that. I think that’s why Scripture passages that deal with compassion so often include the language of “visit.” In Exodus 3:7, God “visits” His people in Egypt. The outcome is that He notes their suffering and rescues them from the hand of the Egyptians. In Genesis, God “visits” Hannah in her distress and she conceives a new life. In Nain, Jesus crossed paths with the funeral procession of a young man and raised him to life again. The comment of those watching was, “surely God has visited us.” In James 1:27, God turns to us and says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Weak when I’m not connected.
What amazes me is that my personal compassionate response can ebb low, even though I work full-time for Food for the Hungry, a company whose mission is to “walk with the poor”! It’s when I personally get to know particular people who are desperately poor, that the motivation to steward my resources better or differently jumps into high gear. When I know a handicapped child who’s in need, I’m eager to sacrifice more of my spending to provide for him. When I see how frugally the church in the barrio operates, my desire accelerates to invest in their ministry because I know it will be used with discretion. It’s in my presence with the poor that my heart is moved and informed.
My question to you is, how often do you “visit” the poor? Everything about my life seems to keep me in a separate world from them. Maybe this can be the year when you and I seek out someone to know in our local community. Maybe this is the year when you can visit a Food for the Hungry community on the other side of the world to learn more about our work and the real people we serve. It’s our walk with the poor that accelerates our giving and infuses it with joy.