The Poor Can Teach Us


poor photo

“He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.'” — Luke 21:1-4

During my fifty-three years of teaching, I held down a blue-collar job while working in academia virtually every single semester. With many of those gigs I was dependent upon tips in order to survive. And it became very clear very soon that the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They were — unquestionably — the best tippers. Folks who worked for tips themselves seemed to consistently reward me with far more than what wealthy people did for my services.

The poor have much to offer us and to teach us. “How much we have to learn from the poor!”, said Pope Francis on January 21, 2014 for the Twenty-Ninth World Youth Day in 2014… one week before DNA analysis confirmed that the 6th-Century Plague of Justinian was caused by a variant of Yersinia pestis (the same bacteria associated with the Black Death).

What we are headed for, as things stand, seems to be worse than the bubonic plague, and with a great sense of urgency… I urge readers to take the poor for teachers. For they invariably show — effortlessly — that people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking in material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. Such action might help keep us from going over the proverbial precipice. Think of it as enlightened self-interest, if you must.

The poor can teach us much about humility and trust. And blessed survival.

Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and proactive concerned citizen for over half a century. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is committed now to honor the thrust of Laudato Si’.


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