This week as I sat in San Salvador traffic with my kids, we noticed a woman across the other side of the street. We know her as a regular client at the Lighthouse Resource Center. I hadn’t seen her in awhile and I mentioned her name. My 13 year old jumped in to correct me. My heart sank in conviction.
“You say you care about the poor…then tell me, what are their names.”
This quote by Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez came instantly to mind and cut me to the core. Funny how just words can be used by God’s Spirit to twist something inside of us, and funny how easy it is for our mental focus to move away from people and onto projects and programs.
In a few weeks, our family will mark 11 years of life and service in El Salvador. It’s been 11 years of trial and error…11 years of programs and project. Some of the things have worked, and some of them haven’t. But it’s also been 11 years of knowing people and we have found that relationships with people stick.
Relationships are the simple, yet complex things that make all the difference in the world. Our relationship to God, and our relationship to other people…that’s it. Our world is dying for lack of relationships. Perhaps this year has thrown a spotlight on how easily we can disengage, disconnect, reduce our interactions to tasks and reports, and move our priorities to jobs to be checked off of our list.
But what if we refused to stop going deeper? What if we committed to learn all the names? Not just the names of everyone who is physically poor, but everyone who is spiritually and emotionally poor in our lives as well?
Our world is crying out for connection. We are drowning in political division, in fear, violence, worry, and all that keeps us away from each other. What if we made the bold choice to connect anyway? To love anyway? To serve and care for anyway?
Just maybe our world would begin to change, and just maybe a little bit of heaven would come to earth. I challenge you and I challenge me to learn every name, to see every hurt, and to take up the burden of loving every neighbor…even the ones whose names we would rather forget. It really is the only way. We can’t claim to follow Jesus if we refuse this task.
So who are the poor in your world today…tell me, what are their names?