St. Vincent looked at the poor and saw the face of Christ. He saw Christ in the person needing to be fed and Christ in the naked person that needed to be clothed.
I thought of Vincent with some sadness as I read a series of statements included in the description of a poverty challenge being sponsored by the Homeless Alliance of Greater Buffalo, NY. The statements reflect the experience of people living in poverty of what many see when they look at the face of a poor person. “Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.” “Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.” “Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.” “Being poor is knowing you are being judged.” “Being poor is people surprised to discover you are not actually stupid.” “Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.” I was sad when I read the statements that people feel this way…and sad because they are made to feel this way – that their perception was probably a pretty accurate reflection of reality.
The statements cause me to ask: who or what do I see when I look at the man begging by the entrance to the expressway I get on when I leave the law school to drive home at night? Who or what do I see when I look at someone shuffling around the mall who looks like he hasn’t showered in several days (or more)? Who or what do I see when I pass someone in the street pushing a cart with all of their possessions in it? If I don’t see the face of Christ, what is preventing me from doing so? And how do I need God’s help to open my eyes to see what Vincent saw?