Saturday, 16 December 2017

Only generosity and care have real value

MOST of us are aware that the recession means the price of everything is steadily increasing and how this is

MOST of us are aware that the recession means the price of everything is steadily increasing and how this is affecting everyone, especially those with little enough to begin with.

It has, of course, been obvious for some time that the “bubble” would finally burst and things would have to change but that doesn’t make it any easier.

One commentator remarked recently that having to rethink our lifestyles would be tough but that people would probably discover they were happier and would find a new sense of community.

There is some truth in this but not, I guess, for those facing repossession of their homes or wondering where their next meal is coming from (at a time when luxury flats in London are being bought for £50 million-plus).

I was deeply touched and humbled by the following story from the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel newsletter: One day a Roman Catholic priest who works in the favelas (shanty towns) of Sao Paulo met a woman and her children moving from the countryside to the city. She asked him to help her find somewhere to live but he could offer her little help.

A week or so later he was walking past a wooden shack, no bigger than a very small living room, when the same woman came rushing out to meet him. “Come and see where I live,” she urged him excitedly. Entering the “house”, he saw a row of furniture down the middle of the room. Wouldn’t she have more space if the furniture was arranged around the walls, he suggested. The woman explained: “You don’t understand. The man and his wife whose house this is invited us to share it. They live on one side of the room with their three children and I live on this side with mine.”

“I couldn’t do that,” remarked the priest. “I only preach the gospel, these people live it.”

I couldn’t do that either but somewhere deep down in my heart I wish I could. It would be nice to think that’s enough but it isn’t and it won’t be for any of us in a world where there are such huge diversities between the super-rich and the appallingly poor until we begin to seriously rethink (repent) our own priorities and see how our lifestyles impact upon everyone else.

Perhaps the wish to help offers an opportunity to re-evaluate our own needs and concerns and to ask — and honestly answer — these questions: how much am I prepared to share, to offer, to give and, more importantly, to give up, in order to truly live out my calling as a caring human being and to be a part of bringing about a better, fairer, more equal world and building close community?

I don’t have anything like £50 million but, in a world of poverty, I am wealthy and am so very aware that only a caring, loving and generous heart like that of the man who shares his house in the favelas is what really counts.

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