“Taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.”
—2 Corinthians 6
The first time I went to help the Living Water Community hand out food bags to the needy, my friend said, “When you see all the people, you will feel something.” She was right.
As we approached Memorial Park, I saw hundreds of people, silent shadows in the dim light of dawn, crowding the sidewalks, stretching in every direction. I was startled. I left the comfort of my life behind and stepped into a harsh reality.
At 6 a.m., they came through the gates with a number which they had been assigned. The last person that we served that morning was #947. They were orderly and polite despite being hungry and tired from a long night of waiting. They arrived as early as 7 o’clock the night before and stood throughout the night, some with babies and young children in tow.
Even a tropical storm didn’t deter them. They waited in the pouring rain and came to us cold and drenched. Whatever their circumstances, hunger and exhaustion did not prevent them from helping the elderly, the deaf and the blind among them.
I greeted everyone as we guided them through the compound of Living Water, which is truly an anointed home of charity and love. They shared their stories of hardship and dire need due to the scarcity of work, exacerbated by the Covid crisis. They spoke openly of cramped living conditions and the struggle to make ends meet.
Many faced health challenges and were frustrated by a slow, unsupportive medical system. The trauma of domestic violence and personal violation was ever present. The young men, in particular, seemed lost, living in the absence of a family unit.
The stories were heart-wrenching, but as the weeks went on, I came to understand why the poor are so dear to God’s heart. They are grateful.
“The Lord gave me breath today”, “I am blessed”, “I can’t complain because it have people worse off than me”, “God is good”, “God bless Living Water for helping us”. I asked one pregnant young woman, who had stood on the street for ten hours on a rainy night, how it was that she could smile so much, “Because I have faith in God”.
Poverty is not for the faint-hearted. It demands courage, humility, perseverance and fortitude to endure whatever comes. This is only possible through the gift of deep faith.
Their goal is to survive each day. With no luxuries, precious little to call their own and nobody to lean on, their eyes remain fixed on the Lord. They depend on Him, and He in turn allows them to feel His love and friendship in a tangible way. These people who have nothing are grateful for everything. A simple bag of groceries is a treasured prize.
As I took a little girl from her tired mother’s arms, I asked her for her name. She said, “Miss, my name is Thankful.”
Linda Aboud Stephen