The Poverty of the Heart Revisited

A few weeks ago a friend of mine died. I didn’t see him much these past years, but we knew each other in high school and I would see him from time to time in the lobby at Eblen needing some assistance as his health had been failing for sometime and his life had been a struggle for some time. But in thinking about him these past weeks and through all the difficulties he faced I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile. I had written this a while back after talking to him and wanted to share it again

One afternoon some time ago I had just walked in the door of our Waddell Client Service Center when I heard someone call out, “Hi Bill, how are you?” I looked around and saw a very thin tired looking gentleman who was waiting for one of our folks to finish a call on his behalf to help him keep his lights and electricity from being disconnected.

He asked me if I remembered him and if I had a few minutes to talk with him. I told him that I certainly remembered him and that I had all the time that he wanted to talk. He explained that he had been doing ok and that he now needed some help as he had gotten behind in his power bill payment. He had not had to ask for help for some time, but his son had just moved back in with him and his limited income had been strained all the more and now he was in danger of not only losing his power but being further behind by not only having to pay his past due bill but also having to pay a reconnection fee. He couldn’t find help anywhere else, but he seemed to want more than just help paying his power bill.

We spent more time talking about his family, his situation, what he had been doing since the last time I had seen him. He was certainly worried about his utility bill, but he seemed to just want to talk. He seemed more worried about feeling alone in his situation than the dollar amount that would keep him with electricity. I believe his fear of loneliness brought him to us as much as his financial need. In talking with him I was reminded of a story that that Mother Teresa wrote about a different kind of poverty. One that invades the heart as deeply as the lack of means invades their physical lives.

“One day I visited a house where our sisters shelter the aged. This is one of the nicest houses
in England, filled with beautiful and precious things, yet there was not one smile on the faces of these people. All of them were looking toward the door. I asked the sister in charge, “Why are they like that? Why can’t you see a smile on their faces?” (I am accustomed to seeing smiles on people’s faces. I think a smile generates a smile, just as love generates love.) The sister answered, “The same thing happens every day. They are always waiting for someone to come and visit them. Loneliness eats them up, and day after day they do not stop looking. Nobody comes.”

“Abandonment is an awful poverty. There are poor people everywhere, but the deepest poverty is not being loved.The poor we seek may live near us or far away. They can be materially or spiritually poor. They may be hungry for bread or hungry for friendship. They may need clothing, or they may need the sense of wealth that God’s love for them represents. They may need the shelter of a house made of bricks and cement or the shelter of having a place in our hearts.”

I continually stand in amazement of the wonderful staff and volunteers we have at Eblen Charities and the compassion, time, and love they take in serving all who call upon us. Their job is far from easy. Our community would be so much poorer without them. I am even more amazed at the courage it must take our families to come in our office or to call seeking help for food, to stay in their homes, purchase their medication, and other needs they may have in their times of need. But through all this, we must continue to look to reach out to the “poverty of the heart” that so many of us have regardless of our financial situation. We don’t have to look far to find it, nor do we have to do much more than smile and spend a few minutes talking to those we meet to begin to lighten their hearts and ours

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