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  • Jack H. Bender

Discovering Compassion for the Poor

In the last two posts, I described paths to finding compassion for the poor. One path could come from your family history and another was being well-informed about how forty-three million Americans are struggling with poverty. This week details yet another path—gratitude. Gratitude for life often asks for a response and one response to having the gift of life is to “pass it on,” seeing to it that others have more life.

I had the good fortune of being in the pilot program of The Courage to Teach, sponsored by the Fetzer Institute. I attended nine quarterly retreats over a two-year period. The Courage to Teach was a “formation” program closely related to what the religious experience when contemplating their true identity and vocation. Each retreat had a theme and I remember three in particular.

Death. Our culture denies and rails against death, even though it is inevitable. What happens if you immerse yourself in considering your own death? To my surprise, the results are positive—gratitude for the gift of life. Rilke advises, “Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened.” Embracing the inevitability of death eventually leads to saying Yes! to life and all that it holds.

Abundance. Walk the aisles of a big box store. Walk in the woods. Turn on a faucet. Breathe. How many species are there on the planet? In the story of the loaves and fish, disciples suggest sending everyone away, so the crowd can find food. Jesus asks about what’s available. “Go and see.” We are surrounded by abundance, but we must be open to it. Recognizing abundance in your life leads to gratitude, thanksgiving.

Gratitude. The retreats on death and abundance gave us a foundation to be grateful So much of our lives are characterized by grace. So much of what we have is given and not earned.

Jack Jezreel says that our anchor to serve others is joy. How are we going to say thank you to the world? How are we going

to pay it forward?

At least for me, radical inequality is a scandal. The gap between what is and what could be is too great. An Oxfam report declares that poverty would have been eliminated seven times over had the recent tax cut gone to the world’spoor instead of billionaires.

It’s easy to find compassion for the poor. Next week, I’ll outline one other path.

(Oxfam link)

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