Poor, Suffering Me

In the About a Dozen Years Ago series… 

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about “poor.”

Those poor kids in Aleppo. Especially the economically poor.

The poor people in this video by (the incomparable) Wilbur Sargunaraj.

But this isn’t really going to be a post about those people. No. For, these days, I am the Great Sufferer. At least that’s what my feelings tell me. The days of being comfortably ensconced within organizational payroll tick down as all thoughts about “the poor” become suddenly about me. (Though it must be noted that up to this point my lidded panic has only the theoretical to engage—nothing has happened.) Still, most days I cannot shake this macabre pall of apprehension weighing down my mind: “Provision” or “More suffering”?  What lies ahead?

But if I can’t trust him now, what was I trusting in before? Salary, benefits, and investments, apparently? What else would explain this unrest?

As to those everywhere worse off than me (and goodness, the planetary percentage is staggering) I find that for the most part their suffering doesn’t do a thing in regards to lessening my sense of mine. Sure, it might make me more grateful (especially this week), but as to making my suffering feel like “not suffering”? Almost never.

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he himself will cry out and not be answered.

-Proverbs 21:13


Rich and poor have this in common. The Lord is the maker of them all.

-Proverbs 22: 2

Leafing through old journals today, I came across an entry reflecting on both of those verses. The entry (from today’s date a dozen years ago, 2004—still in language school and all of China still ahead of us) also included:

Lord, I want to commit to always having packages of food in the car when we go downtown. We—I—have no idea how to respond to the poor because they’ve always been so conveniently removed from my life. I prayed with Tammy last night that you teach us and show us how.

As I recall, dry noodles, maybe crackers, sometimes meat sticks.

Apparently you’ll have to seek out grander blogs than this for ideas about engaging global social issues.

I’ve got passing out ramen on the streets of Xi’an 12 years ago.

Not exactly blipping the philanthropic radar. But, on the other hand, eyes and ears were opening when before they’d been shut. Perhaps the greatest blessing to be found in suffering is in sharing suffering. Even now, I can picture some of those individuals (and others throughout our years in China). Even today, remembering that personal participation in sharing theirs, my suffering diminishes.

How will you initiate sharing in someone’s suffering today?