This is my second post regarding my mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I took a couple of days to piece this one together because it is something that is simple to understand but has been an eye opener and interesting to experience. There is a difference between being homeless and being poor.
For some of you who read this site, that might not be or sound like a big deal to you but it was to me. I have had the great joy of serving the homeless of Philadelphia for about a year now on Monday nights through my church. Going each Monday night, I have learned a lot about myself and about how we can love other despite their smell, their living status, and their ways of life. When I went to the Dominican Republic though, I was suddenly in a position of culture shock. These people were not homeless at all. They were poor – and I mean really poor.
Many people that I met would work hours upon hours in a field thrashing sugarcane until they could no longer thrash sugarcane. It was a brutal job with very little of a promised pay at the end of the day. It is not uncommon for a guy to work thirteen hours a day, six days a week and only receive a modest pay of 42.00 USD (seven dollars USD a day). I don’t know how you would feel about being paid so little but I know I would probably complain a lot. Yet, those in whom I have met seemed to be grateful that they were making money in the first place and that their families were doing okay and that they had a home to cover then when it rained, though they might have a lot of leaks in the roof.
I met a women who was blind and in a wheelchair. She was very old – perhaps around her mid to late eighties or so. She was a kind woman who allowed me to come into her home and sit with her for a time. She just sat there while the fan that they had been hotwired outside of the house to the electric cable that ran electricity through the town blew on her face. It was a hot day and the added cool air would keep her comfortable to make it through the heat. As I sat in her house, I looked around and saw what poverty looked like from a material standpoint. I was in a small living room-type area. The “chair” that I was sitting on was a worn-out piece of wood that was more like a bench than a chair. There was a kitchen table, a couple of chairs with kids sitting in them and a stolen TV that played in the background while we talked. Every so often, she would say, “I am so thankful for this fan” and she would wipe her brow and she would sit back and enjoy the breeze. Before I left her home, I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her that I would remember her. She asked how I would always remember her and I told her that I was going to take a photo of this experience and place it on my computer. She must smile and said that sounded complicated but since I was an American I would probably figure it out somehow. I just laughed and went on from that experience with a picture of me with a blind woman in a chair who had a fan blowing on her and she was thankful for it. I think that is perhaps a good place to end.
In closing, I have to say that I learned a lot from this women who was so grateful for all she had. The people I usually work with in the city of Philadelphia are not as grateful. It is heartbreaking sometimes. I am learning though to love both those who are poor and those who are homeless. I hope that the poor will continue to thank God for their current jobs and the ability to provide for a family while those who are homeless will learn to be thankful for the money they receive every other week from the government and they would continue to strive to be dependant on God and find a place to live and work. Finally, no matter how you slice it, God loves the homeless and the poor just as much as He loves those who have homes and those who are able to provide for themselves through an occupation or a job We seriously have a ton to be thankful for. This is just another thing I am working on even now. So much to do and so little time!