Archive for February 23rd, 2020

Those People 2-23-2020

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

A school had organized a food drive. A teacher was looking at all
that had been collected. Not just the usual mac-and-cheese donations,
but some pretty high-end items filled the bins: gluten-free crackers, rice
pasta, artichoke hearts packed with seasoned oil, and quinoa.
Another woman walked by, and seeing the items that had been donated,
smiled and said, “Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it”.
The teacher asked, “What do you mean?”
“Those people won’t know what most of that stuff is. I mean,
really, Quinoa?” The teacher had heard correctly: “Those people”.
The teacher knew “those people.” Eight months before she had
been one of “those people”. It had been eight months since the last time
she had gotten groceries at the local food pantry. Eight months since the
long-overdue child support from her ex-husband kicked in. Even though
it wasn’t much, it made the difference between being able to buy enough
food for her and her family to make it through the week–and for that she
was grateful. “Those people.”
She remembered the first time she had gone to the food pantry.
She drove by several times before working up the courage to pull into
the parking lot. “I can’t” she whispered and went home – to the empty
refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. Finally, desperation overshadowed
“Those people.”
She finally walked through the door. She could feel the heat on
her cheeks as she filled out the paperwork, telling complete strangers her
life history, how much money she earned, and what she spent it on.
“Those people.”
She quickly learned that food pantries are hit-or-miss. Some days
the shelves are full, and with really good things – and other days you can
barely pull a few meals together from the dented cans and spoiled
produce. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?
“Those people”.
She made five trips to the pantry over eleven months. When she
told her kids, she expected them to laugh or get angry or be embarrassed. Instead, they helped her put the groceries away, quietly. She remembers
all the meals she made with the food pantry items. Oven-roasted
chicken with quartered rosemary potatoes. Turkey chili. French toast.
More mac-and-cheese that she cared to admit. One of her favorites was
an organic risotto, flavored with mushrooms and olive oil.
“Those people”.
She wanted to walk up to that woman in the hallway, grab her by
the shoulders, and shake her: You don’t know a thing about how it feels
to walk into one of “those” places and be one of “those” people.
You’ve never looked at your kids and had to hide your tears because you
had no idea how you were going to feed them”. But she didn’t. All she
could muster was: “I like quinoa”.
If only she knew.
It’s not that we “hate” others: it’s our attitude of superiority over
those who don’t measure up to our “standards” of what is good and right
and correct, it’s that lack of respect and empathy for the poor that Jesus
condemns. The Kingdom of God is first realized when we can see “those people” as our brothers and sisters, worthy not only of our help
and understanding but of our respect; that, in their perseverance and
courage as they struggle to make lives for themselves and their families,
the love of God dwells in their midst, as well as ours. The Kingdom of
God begins when we realize that “those people” are us.