Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Saw What I Saw: Why I Serve the Poor


Sara Groves is able to say what my soul cannot. I recently re-discovered her throughout this year, the year that led to becoming a prepostulant with the Daughters. So many of her songs epitomize my spiritual and discernment journey. The song "I Saw What I Saw" is no exception. It expresses my feelings about seeing poverty firsthand, from experience in Appalachia to the Hispanic community in Baltimore City, but especially in Bolivia. She sings:
I saw what I saw and can't forget it
I heard what I heard and can't go back
I know what I know and can't deny it
Something on the road cut me to the soul
Many people can come back from a mission trip and think "wow, that was wonderful" and continue their everyday life without a second thought. Which is fine in a way, but I knew as early as high school that I couldn't do that. From that first mission trip to a coal mine town in western Virginia, there was something about serving the poor that cut me to the core. Something told me that this wasn't a temporary thing, that it couldn't be, my soul wouldn't allow it any other way. All I know is that I was compelled...not out of some obligation to "help" as if I were the better one, but out of love. That compulsion took me from the hills of Appalachia to the Hispanic community in Baltimore to dusty rural Bolivia and now to the heart of Georgia.

It was God compelling me - not a "something" - and way back when, as a 16 year old, I wasn't able to explain it. The motto of the Daughters of Charity is, and has been since the 1600s, "The Charity of Jesus Crucified Urges Us!" And perhaps that's just it. I know now that it is a compulsion of vocation, that it is a compulsion to imitate Him in His love for the poor, that it is less of a obligation against my will and more of a drive towards my own true happiness.  

I couldn't imagine the path that would take me on. Throughout the years, despite the rough days, I grew to love them and see the face of Christ more and more in them...in families in coal mine towns, in kids stuck between two nationalities, in girls who had been abused and neglected in every way imaginable, and lately I've seen it in my students, whose parents pay the bare minimum of tuition because it's all they can afford, in their problems, in their curiosity, in their enthusiasm and in the Hispanic community here, in their love for one another and their hope.

One of the last verses of "I Saw What I Saw" is:
I say what I say with no hesitation
I have what I have but I'm giving it up
I do what I do with deep conviction
Nine years ago, I had no idea that serving the poor for life meant giving up so much...but it also led me to the utter joy of saying what I say with no hesitation and doing what I do with deep conviction and giving it all up with pleasure, not thinking of the costs.

Serving the poor does not mean "helping". For me, it simply means loving my brothers and sisters and my Christ, and doing what I can to show them my love. "Helping" seems to have the air that I am their superior, when if anything, they are mine.

After all, how could we claim to be "helping" Christ, the son of our God? We are His servants. And likewise, we are servants to His face in the world.

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