“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” – Matthew 26:11
Every week, Trinity Episcopal Church hands out between 300 and 450 sack lunches to the hungry and homeless in downtown Reno. We supplement that with fresh oranges congregants donate and day-old baked goods our local Starbucks gives us. In rotation with other downtown churches we host one or more homeless families every couple months.
In Sparks, our neighboring city, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church feeds about a thousand families a month out of their food pantry.
I am haunted by the faces that line up sometimes hours before our doors open. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us, but I’m not sure that is because we can’t eradicate poverty given the wealth of our nation, or if Jesus foresaw flawed humanity and imperfect human governments would never care enough to do so.
I suspect the loudest voices in the political world who defend the wealthy and privileged of our country and reluctantly open their clenched fists to hand the poor even the smallest aid, have never really seen their faces. The poor are an abstract. You can’t feel compassion for an abstract. If an abstract is hungry, it’s hard to care about them or their abstract children. I invite them to spend time handing out lunches with us in Reno. Go to Sparks and pack the cardboard boxes and bags for the families, but be sure to hand them to the poor yourself. Volunteer at a local shelter or serve food at the downtown mission. See the faces. Look in their eyes. They will never be an abstract again.