Dear Fellow Vincentians,
It’s February, it’s cold, and it seems like a long way to go for the arrival of Spring and warm weather. For those of us who remain in Michigan rather than going South for warmth, we may feel warmth in our hearts as we help our Neighbors in Need.
Neighbors in Need:
As Vincentians encounter poverty in the lives of our Neighbors in Need, many thoughts and questions arise, some laced with bias and some based on lack of knowledge.
“Why should we go beyond our conference guidelines when assessing need as we have limited funds? Why do we have to make home visits as it’s too dangerous to go into some homes in our area? Why can’t we question their motivation at times and label them if we feel such motivation takes advantage of our resources? Why is there so much anger when we are just trying to help them? Why do some families get evicted over and over? Why should we help a family when their home has some “luxury” items in it? Why can’t they move in with relatives or ask friends and family for help before calling us for help?”
Many of these thoughts and words may have crossed your mind and lips, or other members of your conference may have uttered them at some point in time.
A Vincentian’s interaction with a Neighbor in Need, whether at a Food pantry, home visit, rectory, or listening to a telephone request for help, may result in encountering tears, anger, defiance, desperation and isolation. Other everyday contributing factors to the trauma of our impoverished neighbors are lack of education, family support and positive role models.
So, how do we truly relate and understand those living in poverty? You or a conference member may have experienced poverty at some point in time and can now relate that period to Vincentian work. Vincentians that have not experienced poverty in their personal life hopefully can recognize their blessings in life. No matter what your or my experiences have been, as a Vincentian we MUST be able to relate with compassion, tolerance, and lack of bias.
As Vincentians, we have both the responsibility and the challenge to effect Systematic Change in the lives of our Neighbors in Need. However, we must understand the dynamics of poverty before we can attempt to help a person to make changes in their life. Let’s start with putting away the questions at the top of the page and undertake our own education. We need to go beyond our judgmental thinking, fears and biases, to take time to understand the reasons why our Neighbor may operate in survival mode or may display aggression against institutional systems. Discussion in your conference on the elements and framework of poverty is a good beginning toward acceptance and thoughtful interaction with our Neighbors in Need.
We are all Children of God. Please remember that in your outreach to others.
God Bless to all of you as continue in your vocation as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Nancy Szlezyngier President,
SVdPD Archdiocesan Council