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You can be busy and be available to the needs of the poor

“What’s wrong with being busy?”

This was the question posed by panellist Terez Lord, former CARICOM youth ambassador at a youth discussion on Poverty with the Catholic Youth Commission (CYC) for Justice, Peace and Community Week Wednesday (November 18). The observance which started Saturday, November 14 and runs to Saturday 21 had as its theme: Stretch forth your hand to the poor (Sirach 7:32).

According to Lord, nothing is wrong with being busy, booked or even being ambitious.

It however becomes a problem when that hectic life is characterised by indifference and cynicism as it relates to the reality and the plight of the poor around us. She recalls that in Matthew 25:14, we see distinctly how Jesus reveals Himself as present in the very least of His brothers and sisters. “I believe that that should be enough to not only treat others with human dignity but more so we should be a pillar of support and strength to others who need it,” she said.

In her brief contribution, Lord touched on the misconceptions of poverty adding that there are many persons who choose to be in lack, underprivileged and live in poverty. She mentioned that some persons may not be truly poor but are simply poor at prioritising their time, talents and finances.

This, she said, is by no means an opportunity to cast judgement or to be cynical of their situation be it self-imposed or not.

“We have the responsibility to pray for them, not that this is an option but rather it is a sign of the authenticity of the faith that we so profess. This too is included in stretching forth our hands to the poor.”

Lord observed that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how poverty can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. According to her, it has offered unique and unparalleled opportunities for persons to stretch out their hands to each other albeit not physically due to social distancing limitations.

She quoted Pope Francis’ message for World Day of the Poor that a hand outstretched is a sign that immediately speaks of closeness, solidarity, and love. “It reminds me of a campaign ‘Alone together’,” she said.

Lord added that during this time of pandemic, while we cannot physically touch or embrace, our actions can do so much more than the warmness of hugs can possibly do.

For Lord, the outstretched hands of doctors and nurses, emergency responders, pharmacists and other frontline workers who care for patients and put their own health at risk is seen. The outstretched hands are also observed in the men and women providing essential services, priests giving blessings and the outstretched hands of volunteers. Ultimately, the pandemic has made persons more aware of the presence of poor in the midst and their need for help.

Justin deVerteuil

The hour-long discussion included a conversation on spiritual poverty by Justin de Verteuil. According to de Verteuil, spiritual poverty occurs when persons find themselves experiencing struggles, fights, sleepless nights where they find themselves constantly searching for direction. De Verteuil touched on some things that contribute to spiritual poverty such as family traits/behaviours which were not corrected “properly” and lack of knowledge.

He mentioned that during COVID-19, especially, “all of us would have [experienced] some sort of spiritual poverty…we might not notice it, or dig a big deal of it, but …we all suffered some sort ….”