“Vincentians,” our Rule reminds us, “should never forget that giving love, talents and time is more important than giving money.” [Rule, Part I, 3.14] Yet, faced with the overwhelming needs that some of our neighbors present to us, we sometimes ask ourselves how this can possibly be. How can my time, my limited talents, my simple words of compassion, possibly ease these great burdens?
Consider these words, written in appreciation of a Vincentian who was dedicated to visiting the homeless in his community – in parking lots, in food lines – meeting them where they were. Because of his attention to their words, their persons, she said, “We get to breathe different when he’s around because we know he cares. [He is] a sign of relief for the few visible hours we have. Our gratitude for him taking the time with us gives hope to a lot of us who have no one to depend on. Some stand straighter with more confidence and willingness to take on the challenges of the day or sometimes the week.”
No work of charity is foreign to the Society. That is because, as important as they are, utilities, rent, and even food are only the works, not the charity. Our presence and our love will always be more important than our works because our presence and our love are the reason for the works.
We are created as social beings. We can’t live or develop our own potential without our relationships with others, because our relationships with other people are representative of our relationship with God. [CSDC, 110] The material deprivations of poverty and homelessness can be relieved, and should be relieved, but our “passion for the full flourishing and eternal happiness of every person” [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1] calls on us to offer our hearts along with the bread.
Our ministry is person-to-person, equal-to-equal, an encounter, not a transaction, because “something of the glory of God shines on the face of every person”. [CSDC, 144] That glory shines, if we choose to see it, not only during those precious “few visible hours” of the lonely, the suffering, or the deprived, but in every precious, visible hour that all of us share together on this earth.
Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Give a man your heart, you invite him to the feast.
How can I better form relationships based on trust and friendship with the neighbor?