Standing with Persons who are Poor
By Sr. Jan Hrubes, OSF
I had the privilege of "standing with persons who are poor" in one of my ministries as a high school counselor working with senior students from the inner city of Chicago, many of whom are undocumented. The school's mission was to work with the poor – to be a "miracle on Division Street."
The fear that many of these students experience cannot be imagined by those of us who have not known it. This fear arises because of lack of access to health care, job availability, living conditions, and safety in everyday living. Because these basic needs are not met, it is difficult for these students and their families to see any hope for their future and to identify options in their lives.
Each day I encountered students who have worked many hours with minimal pay. They have no health insurance and there are no free clinics available. Students and their families live in cars and shelters as well as on the street. All of these living situations give rise to violence and family tensions. The teachers provide ordinary things like tooth brushes, soap, and basic items for everyday use in addition to educating these young people about the skills of life
So how do we provide hope for these students? How do we lead them to believe in us when we say there is a future for them? We believe strongly that we need to educate our students, help them look at possible career choices, and move them to post-secondary education. This next step is usually junior college after high school graduation. There are unpublished scholarships available from the city colleges, but students need help to locate and apply for them. We also worked intensely with many agencies in Cook County that reach out to our students, helping to create bridges to agencies that can meet some of their needs so they can move on with their lives.
It was difficult to listen to the problems of these students, particularly those who do not just exist, but are trying to make something more of themselves. For me, listening and helping in any way I could was putting the gospel message in practice each day. It helped students to know that they can see a future by looking not just with their eyes but with their hearts and minds.
Jesus came for the outsiders, the disenfranchised, the lame, the sick, the under-valued, the helpless, and the unwanted. It is with Jesus and with Francis and Clare as they followed the journey and dream that we reach out of our "comfort zone" to go "deeper and wider" connecting to those around us and giving hope. Maybe someone's life will be a little better today because of you and me.