another look back

Heather just sent out a letter to friends telling about her experiences here and her Africa plans for the summer. I thought this part fits well with my last entry:

How can I sum up what I've learned? "The poor" are not "the poor." They are individuals with names and histories that are often not open to someone like me when she approaches them. They are all different, though they might all seem the same at first meeting because they will all have their best face on. (All but the best and the worst.) Some of them are lying to you, and some of them are not. This is painful, because you get cheated and feel betrayed, then you turn around and cast harsh suspicion on the next person, who turns out to be innocent and emotionally vulnerable.

And also, just because they're poor doesn't mean that spiritual concerns pale before material ones in their case. I've seen more spiritual suffering this year than any other kind. I'm not sure how to explain this. Especially briefly, and this needs to be brief, because this is not the only thing I'm writing to y'all about. Suffice it to say I've come to hold this view very strongly, that one of the best, truest and most respectful things I can do for "the poor" (at least, if I stay in America) is what a few of God's people have done for me: they listened to my life as if it mattered, they told me God meant better by me than I could imagine, they helped me try to figure out what He was doing and how I should respond. That's what we need. What everybody needs. That's why I got excited when Paul read about, and got interested in, a different Catholic Worker: a little place in the country near Washington, DC, that offers spiritual retreats for free, to homeless and low-income folks. They're biblically based retreats based on the 12 Steps, which I've found to be quite biblical and spiritually accurate, but I'll leave it at that in the interest of brevity...