I read a book by Catholic author Matthew Kelly entitled The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. In this book, Matthew Kelly identifies four qualities that he found in Catholics who were living an “authentic life.” One of these qualities is generosity and I read with great interest as he used the above quote from Blessed Mother Teresa as the key to opening our hearts and seeing opportunities for being more generous. Living simply and being more generous wouldn’t normally strike me as going hand in hand, but after thinking about it, I realized that by striving to be better stewards, we become more generous and we also tend to simplify our lives.
The process of simplification may lead to more time for volunteering or some extra money to give to an organization we would like to support.
Simplifying our own lives can also make us aware of how much we have compared to others. Blessed Mother Teresa referred to the impoverished in the developed countries (such as The United States) as “The Hidden Poor.” In our country, many people go without food in order to pay other bills. In fact, there is a black market for food stamp debit cards where people are willing to sell these cards for cash in order to pay for other things such as a cell phone or internet access. How did we get here and how do we stop creating these impoverished pockets within our society?
“Living simply so that others may simply live” is a good start, but cutting ties with the cable/internet company or not carrying a smart phone may not directly help anyone. In our country, we’ve developed technology to help propel our companies forward and become more competitive, but we’ve also inadvertently left the little guy behind. It used to be that a typical household budget included things like utilities, rent or mortgage payment, groceries, and transportation (which may have been bus fare, not necessarily a car payment, insurance, gas, tolls, etc.). Now a typical household budget includes an internet/cable bill, a cell phone bill, a car payment, and maybe even a gym membership or two as well as fees for various activities and classes for the kids. Instead of simplifying, we’ve over complicated.
It’s time to step back, re-evaluate our needs, and ask ourselves, “How do we really simplify and, by simplifying our own lives, how can we make an impact on others?” If we have two cars, is it possible for our family to get by with one car and donate the other? If we cook our meals at home, can we make two and deliver one of them to a family in need? Can we donate our time in order to give someone a ride that doesn’t have money for the bus? How much clothing do we really need? Can we thin out our closets and give someone a boost with some “new” items?
Helping the “hidden poor” in our country is going to take creativity. Many times we may not realize the hardships people are facing, hence the reference to the “hidden” poor. But, by being attentive and creative, we can help those around us.
“If you have two coats,” he replied, “give one to the poor. If you have extra food, give it away to those who are hungry.” Luke 3:11