In my journal I read about how much I was enjoying the summer, daily walks to the lake with my dog Charlie, hot afternoons in the pool with the kids, evenings grilling dinner on the deck. It's a sharp contrast to where I'm living now on the west side of Chicago. I love East Garfield Park and my little apartment, but there are empty lots and boarded up buildings everywhere and lots of trash, broken bottles and cracked sidewalks. It can be depressing. I realized as I read my journal tonight that I was happier living in Andersonville and was beginning to feel sorry for myself, like maybe I had made a bad choice. After all, shouldn't I be happy?
Then I watched the film, When Did I See You Hungry, from the San Damiano Foundation. I rented it from Netflix. It shows the poorest of the world's poor, living in squaller, juxtaposed with statistics and quote after quote from Scripture and from Christians about loving Jesus in the poor. I wept at the sight of a leper, a woman, who looked grotesque from the disease, a disease that isolates people because no one wants to look at them. When asked how she was doing, she said, "Very well, Praise the Lord."
And I'm not happy!!
The producer of the film said, after taking pictures all day in the Payatas garbage dump outside Manila, that he went back to his room and cried.
I don't think we are supposed to seek out suffering, but when we walk with the poor, we do suffer. Life is easier when we avoid them and the communities where they live. I don't think everyone is called to move into a slum, but I think it is important that we let our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
Walter Brueggemann in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, defines passion as “the capacity and readiness to care, to suffer, to die and to feel”. He says, the world’s economy is “designed to keep people satiated so that they do not notice." Its politics is intended to "block out the cries of the denied ones. Its religion is to be an opiate so that no one discerns misery alive in the heart of God.”
I am certainly not suffering by living in East Garfield Park. I may have felt happier in Andersonville, but here, I am growing in my capacity to care, to suffer, and to feel.
"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings."
- Philippians 3:10