We climbed into a big van and drove into Philadelphia. The hum of the city coursed through my 10-year-old veins. I feel asleep on the way there, our road surrounded by wide open, snow-covered fields. I woke up to black slush piled around poles, kicked at by loitering strangers. All of us country folk were so unused to the jagged sidewalks and the empty glances and a rectangular skyline uninterrupted by trees.
The air pressed in around me, cold and foreign, and I was scared when my dad and my uncle opened the back of the van to reveal the treasure we carried: boxes and boxes of gleaming white tube socks wrapped in plastic.
“Hey, buddy,” my dad called, never scared, never one to hesitate. “You need some socks?”
The man pushed his cart over towards us, squinting his eyes. He grunted as if to say of course, who wouldn’t want new socks?
My dad tossed him a few pair and the old man broke into a toothless grin. He sat down, right there in the snow, hiked up his threadbare pants and yanked off his old socks, his bare feet thin and tired in the winter air. Then he pulled on those brand spanking new tube socks, and he smiled, and he stared at his feet as if they belonged to someone else, and he wiggled his toes.
He pulled on his shoes and tucked his old socks in amongst his belongings. Maybe he thought we might change our minds at some point, chase him down, and demand he return the new ones. I don’t know. But it was a cold day, and he kept looking over his shoulder as he walked away. Meanwhile, a crowd of homeless men gathered, and we handed socks to them. Small weapons with which to fight the cold.
* * * * *
“How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: “What is my poverty?” Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! “How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.”