Earlier this week following a meeting of our Board of Directors, I exited our headquarters building down the back stairs.
As I walked to my car, I noticed a blanket spread out on a patch of grass beneath a small shrub near the edge of the parking lot. Stretched out on the blanket was an old man. He appeared to be asleep, even though it was at least an hour before dark arrived and settled in.
I approached him to say hello and to make sure he was okay. As I did, I startled him.
He attempted to jump up, and he seemed to be trying to brace himself for something very unpleasant.
“No, no,” I began. “Keep your seat! I just wanted to say ‘hello’ and meet you!” I tried to reassure him.
He relaxed, smiled and shook my extended hand.
“They let me stay out back here. I’m sort of a night watchman,” he informed me, not knowing that I worked at CDM.
“I see,” I nodded.
“Sure wish I could get my hands on some peanut butter and maybe some bread,” he said. I guessed he was waking up and had decided that I had emerged from the building where he knew we operated a large food pantry.
“I can take care of that for you, I think,” I replied to his simple request.
I returned to the building and gathered a bag of food and drink for him. When I returned, he was sound asleep again. I placed the bag by his blanket and didn’t disturb him further.
As I drove away, he roused up again, discovered the bag of food and waved to me. I drove closer and visited with him about a housing solution. We’re still working on that.
What I cannot remove from my mind is the image of his face when I first approached his little bed. The fear on his face—I’ll always remember it. I know that look must be a learned response, an automatic reaction formed from his many experiences with people like me.
An old, very thin, very poor, very hungry man. . .scared to death of the likes of me.
So many people, it seems, are afraid of the poor.
What we never consider is just how afraid the poor are of those of us who are anything but poor.
The fear of the poor arises from what they suffer at the hands of people who live in the richest nation in the world.
A fear born of being ignored,
Experience had taught my new friend to be afraid of, of. . .me.
Lots of people fear the poor.
Realizing that people like me are, in fact, the fear of the poor ought to reframe our understanding and change the way we behave.
I remember reading somewhere that “perfect love drives out fear.”
God, have mercy. God, help us.
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