Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites

Friday, April 27, 2007

"We are here to bear witness to our Lord."

"Many young people have come here and worked with us, and they tell us after a while that they have learned a lot and are grateful to us, but they disagree with us on various matters - our pacifism, our opposition to the death penalty, our interest in small communities, and our opposition to the coercive power of the state. You people are impractical, they tell us, nice idealists, but not headed anywhere big and important. They are right. We are impractical, as one of us put it, as impractical as Calvary. There is no point in trying to make us into something we are not. We are not another Community Fund group, anxious to help people with some bread and butter and a cup of coffee or tea. We feed the hungry, yes; we try to shelter the homeless and give them clothes, if we have some, but there is a strong faith and work; we pray. If an outsider who comes to visit doesn't pay attention to our praying and what that means, they he'll miss the whole point of things.
We are here to bear witness to our Lord. We are here to follow His lead. We are here to celebrate Him through these works of mercy. We are here, I repeat, to follow His lead - to oppose war and the murder of our fellow human beings, to reach out to all we see and meet. We are not here to prove that our technique of working with the poor is useful, or to prove that we are able to be effective humanitarians. That's what one visitor told me we are, effective humanitarians. Then he added what he thought was his ultimate compliment. He told me that there's a lot that city and state and federal agencies could learn from us, that we have excellent relationships with our patrons, that we have become efficient and reach our target population quite well, and that we work with a minimum of friction and red-tape. I was supposed to be impressed and grateful.
I don't mean to sound as ungrateful as I just did. It is interesting how we find a target for our frustrations. That man became one form. I turned him into a representation of all the government bureaucrats and of all the agnostic reformers want to get the poor off the streets and into various programs and projects funded by the Congress of the United State of America. [snip] He told me once - joking, but he was serious, also - that if he could ever become secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, he would try to abolish poverty in America. I asked him why he wanted to do that. He recited all the statistics he knew, and they did sound awful, but I had the feeling he wasn't thinking of any particular poor person, but of all those numbers and percentages.
I told him there were lots of numbers and percentages that I didn't know, but I was sure that when poverty is abolished in America there will still be plenty of poverty. And the question will be, What kind of poverty has one embraced; spiritual poverty, or a voluntary poverty meant to help one avoid spiritual poverty? He looked at me as if he was having trouble with my talk, and I could see why. I wasn't being as helpful to him as I might have been. I was using him, I later realized. After you've heard a lot of people tell you that you're part of a cute little experiment that has no real meaning for the tough real world out there, you being to act a little cute yourself - as if you're in some trance that makes you useless - or you begin to look at your accusers with a jaundiced eye and ask yourself who in the world they are, and what in the world are they accomplishing with their various legislative victories, their big offices, and their massive appropriations."
Dorothy Day, pg 97-98 'Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion'