One of the things I love about living in New York is that it’s virtually impossible to imagine that everyone is more or less just like me.
I get on the subway and the variety of ages, backgrounds, nationalities and personalities immediately pops whatever bubble I am living in.
I need this. I need it because I seem to carry around a warped yardstick that measures my wellbeing on a scale that starts about a half-inch below where I am and extends upward to everyone who’s better off. If I don’t see the poor, the needy, the dislocated, the infirm and people who are just plain different than me, I often forget they exist. I think of them in the abstract rather than encounter them in reality. And that’s not good for any of us. It causes my focus to zero in on what I want, rather than about what others need.
I’ve spent the past few days helping my eldest settle into her new home in a small city in the Midwest. It’s a very different place than New York. It’s quiet. Friendly. Spacious. Green. My daughter will be happy here, I think; many of the things I love about the big city are stressful to her. Her needs are different than mine, and that’s healthy and good.
But at some point before I leave on Friday I will remind her that Jesus said, “The poor will be with you always.” I’ll add that if life ever gets so comfortable that you don’t encounter people in need regularly, it’s time to go looking for them. For surely there are people less well off around you. And surely you need them as much as they need you, if you’re going to grow in compassion and faith.