I was recently driving back from a Corps meeting when I stopped at red light. Here I saw a homeless man and young woman who seemed very uneasy with her surroundings, possibly even scared. While this is not an unusual sight around Phoenix sadly, it struck me differently this time. It shook me so that I was made to think about their sufferings, their need for compassion, for someone to notice, and stand by and with them. It is in this scenario that I found particular word of Blessed Mother Teresa to be alive:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
Our homes of hospitality are so fortunate to be able to provide moms with clothes, food, bus passes, job training programs, a safe bed, counseling, the list goes on. Our homes are wonderful, and frankly very comfortable. There are many wonderful organizations and non-profits that provide the like. And while our moms may often go from having a few duffle bags of baby items and some items to furnish an apartment, there is so much more to lack.
In the moments that I paused to watch that man and woman on the street, pained and waiting to be assisted, I could not help but wonder if however they came to be in that moment, begging or scared, could have been changed if only we as a whole, families, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, had taken the time and invited them in. Perhaps if they had received a consoling word, a listening ear, a check-in, anything that resembled a conscious act of self-giving and been thus welcomed into a community of others, of love and of mercy, they would not be where they are.
Yes, the material needs are a real thing. You and I need food, water, shelter, the occasional bill paid for, and, yes, you and I enjoy the leisure items that money can buy. Likewise, at Maggie’s Place we could not carry out our mission on a practical scale without the generous donations of others. But really this isn’t enough, and arguably not the most important need. It is our prayerful goal as Corps to be set apart in providing more than material needs. We hope that when we spend hours conversing with moms, or willfully wake up at 2am to watch their crying infant, or even address their rule breaking without a hint of disappointment or disowning, or just eat a meal together, that we are working to “cure” the “greatest disease in the West today.”
A community of love can be the beginning to break a lifetime worth of low self-esteem that chooses poorly time and again; to nurture and encourage someone’s will to finally take the many steps to break the cycle of addiction; to realize that each one of us is worthy of love and respect, and not made worthy by material items. Community is the food we hope to feed the world with.
By Alicia Gardner, MissionCorps member at The Magdalene House