Both my wife and I volunteer our services for the homeless and for those in need of a good meal. We are by no means “career” do gooders, but we both feel an obligation as Catholics to follow the life and works of Jesus, who made it clear during his time on earth to help those in need.
Now volunteering in programs for those less fortunate is not for everyone, and there are certainly many other ways to give time and effort for the good of the community, the state and the nation. But what is surprising to my wife and me is the lack of interest that too many of our friends and neighbors have in getting involved in volunteer efforts, especially when it involves those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
We know that for some it is the time commitment, for others it is an emphasis on family, and for others it is perhaps feeling uncomfortable working with strangers. What I fear most, however, is that the blank looks and lack of questions when my wife and I talk about our volunteer work with the homeless and the hungry comes from this sad buy in to the view that America is a country with nearly 50% of its population who are ” takers” and give nothing back or produce nothing of value.
Most of these blank looks and outward signs of disinterest come from churchgoing Christians, who maybe weren’t reading the Gospels during services or think that Jesus was some sort of captain of industry rather than a man who hung around with the outcasts. What would Jesus do? Jesus would help the homeless and the hungry.
My wife and I have to be very careful about being judgmental about the way people lead their lives. They may give generously to the homeless and the hungry, they may quietly drop off clothes to those in need, they may offer up their prayers for a world in which the poor can lead a better life. There are many ways to live the Gospels.
But during these tough economic times that have led to a growing nastiness toward the “takers”, it would be reassuring to know that living the Gospels and following the example of Christ suggests a reaching out to those in need rather than those blank stares and outward signs of disinterest.