One of the things that struck me most in these travels has been the number of homeless people that I have encountered, each with their own story.  It has not been so prevalent here in New Mexico, but that could have to do with my current location, but in places like Berkeley and San Francisco, along with Chicago, it was quite overwhelming.  Maybe even more overwhelming were the number that were younger than I who spend their time living on the streets of these different cities.  I came across a quote in a book I picked up in California that put a little perspective on my experience.  The author writes, “Engaging the outcast puts us in touch with ourselves.  The outcast calls forth from within us parts of ourselves that we have banished into unconscious exile, and heals us.”  That added some insight into my own internal struggles on this trip because I forced myself, and maybe given the time I had, to engage each of them that encountered me in conversation and to how they have gotten where they are.  We live with way too many stereotypes of the homeless in this country, when in reality, they are no different from us.  They have a story.  They look for love.  They want to provide for their families.  And yet, wrong choices, life circumstances, things beyond their control have moved them into what becomes their lifestyle.  In some way, we all have a bit of homelessness within ourselves.  We long to be one.  We long for union with God; it’s the way we were created, and because of that longing, at times we make wrong choices as well, thinking one thing will fill it, only to be left empty.  We have a moral and Gospel obligation to the homeless and the poor, and as I have learned through this experience, they lead us into greater vulnerability in our lives so that we can face the great longing within our hearts and souls.  There is much to be learned and much to be healed within ourselves that can only come, as the author writes, when we allow ourselves to engage with the outcasts and enter into relationship with them.  As much as I have been surprised at how “in your face” it has been on this trip, I am grateful for where they have led me, into a greater understanding of what it means to truly love.


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