Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Lately, I’ve been learning about poverty and getting to know those in its grip, thanks to the”Open Door” community here in Atlanta. Open Door is a residential community in the spirit of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, whose mission is to care for the poor and for prisoners. And my education is really only just beginning, I’m learning, as I listen to the stories of those who show up each Wednesday night to Open Door’s free foot clinic and regale me, with their feet in a bucket of warm, herb-infused water, with their stories of life on the streets or in jail.

Which may be why this brilliant comic by Toby Morris, “On a Plate,” which is a meditation on the systemic nature of both poverty and privilege, hits so close to home. The headline introducing the comic reads “This Comic Will Forever Change the Way You Look at Privilege”—and it did. In a mainstream American culture that still largely celebrates the rugged, bootstrap pursuit of “the American dream,” Morris’ comic is a reminder of the obliviousness with which one can live in debt to little more than sheer privilege (the fact of being born into a white, well-educated, middle-class or affluent family), as opposed to the stand-alone merit of one’s achievements.

The take-home message for me? That privilege should elicit great humility and greater responsibility; (didn’t Jesus say that from those who have been given much, much will be demanded?) And that another human being’s poverty deserves compassion and an attentiveness to poverty’s deeply systemic nature, rather than quick, easy judgements about the character defects of the poor person in front of me.






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