what I learned at the Catholic Worker

Yesterday I had an idea for an article for the upcoming newsletter (the last one we'll be here for). About what I've learned here. I think I'll post it as I write it:

The poor do not exist
and other things I learned at the Catholic Worker

The poor do not exist. This has become quite clear to me during these seven months living and working at the Catholic Worker.

There is always much debate about "the poor." The problem of the poor. How to care for the poor. A preferential option for the poor. Jesus is often said to have called the poor blessed. (What he actually said was "Blessed are you poor," speaking to his disciples. Lk 6.20) But when I moved into a house with those labeled "the poor," and began to get to know them, I could no longer lump them together so easily. These women I lived with were not the poor. These men who came to the door again and again were not the poor. They were people, as individual and diverse as anyone else. They were not all alcoholics or thieves or liars. They were not all irresponsible. But they also were not all simply victims of society, of unjust systems, held down by the rich and powerful. They were not all the same. Many had been burdened with difficult problems by others, though each responded in different ways. Some seemed themselves to be the cause of their own worst problems, though of these some were beginning to change while others seemed stuck. Having met these unique people, I think it is a mistake to generalize and categorize them as "the poor." The poor do not exist.