There is plenty of poverty where I live, in Detroit. Plenty. The extent of my contact with it, though, is contained to the 5 minute drive down the road to the building I work in. The suburbs cover up the poverty of Detroit pretty well. The nice downtown cover it up. The up-and-coming businesses and restaurants cover it.
Driving down Joy Road, though, it is hard to cover. It is hard to cover the homeless, the broken down houses, boarded up businesses and the trash that riddles the streets.
I went to Nicaragua, and there, I suppose, there is a different sort of poverty. A poverty that cannot be covered. Poverty that comes in the shape of a mother who walks miles and miles and miles every day selling vegetables and only makes $3.75 a day, even if she sells them all. The family she supports lives in a house made of thick pieces of wood, twine, and a zinc roof, and when it rains, everything in the house gets wet. We gave them bottled water because their tap water isn't safe to drink, but they drink it anyways.
One of the translators that accompanied us, after translating the story of the mother who sells the vegetables, remarked "I don't know how to fix that" as she shook her head.
As I prayed and reflected and entered into the experience, I came to only one real conclusion: Jesus, I know why you love the poor.
Poverty brings about a sort of purity that is so real, you can touch it. The poor do not have possessions or money to cover up who they are, their brokenness, or their joy. Their love shines through, especially through the children, and reaches out to touch you.
I was very comfortable in Nicaragua. The simplicity of the life I lived while I was there was refreshing. Get up, go to mass, eat breakfast, pray the rosary, then go, walk, and be with people. Play with little kids and give out the Word of God. Bring people little bits of food and water. Smile.
I stopped making the joke about the money and the man.
Jesus, never let me forget about the poor.
Jesus, give me the purity of poverty.