Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
February 24, 1991     Arkansas Catholic
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February 24, 1991
 

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ARKANSAS CATHOLIC FEBRI.IARY 24, 1991 PAGE 9 IIGI&IL III!I%IGIII Tootsie By Rev. Ken Brucks Haunted. I am haunted by a home- less man who is wearing my pants. It began early one morning at tile rectory, which sits on the edge of Chicago's West Side. Annette, our Parish secretary, announced that SOmeone was in the parlor "to see a Priest." lie was about my age, height and weight. Scratching his unkempt beard throughout his visit, he told me his tale in'short, choppy phrases. I Ie ~ls born in the parish. Attended school there. Worked for a while after high SChool. Sometime in the past, perhaps due to trauma, stress or abuse, lie lost it. He was no longer capable of clear ~inking or taking care. In tile process e had lost his family, too. I was the rlly family he had. After listening intently to his story, ~onitoring with my inner ear file simi- arities between our lives, I asked what he needed "Pants," he said. "I need a Pair of pants." v My mind peeled off the oossibilities: iqcent de Paul, Catholic C'haritics, the Parish rummage sale, file shelter on ~rOa~ ~. uway. l~ut wanting to avoid red tape and respond immediately, I excused ~Yself and dashed UP to mY room r l -- _ o~ my bottom dresser drawer I un- [hrled an ugly pair of bell bottoms, a relic of the late '60s, which I had little rise for, arid which he seemed to l,ike. Of[-he went into tile homeless 80s Wearing my pants froln a different era. l~rom that day he's haunted nie. hli- tially I saw him everywhere. Michigan venue. State Street West Side. North roadway. One day, I was certain, he .0Uld approach me when I was with a lend or colleague and say, "Thanks ~r ttie pants." If lie wasn't embarrassed ! rny antique wardrobe, I was! My tend would snicker and say: "Another 0s solution to an '80s problem!" Then, the cruncher Orle rnorning, I ias sayin words of consecration at tl o hecharist: This is my body which will given up for you. This is my blood '" wh" " " h' " lch wdl be shed for you. I saw ~l~ standint~ in the back of church rh^. o J c intersection of words and sight ." . afterward, where I fit him with a decent- '%king pair of Levis, circa 1986. Charity plays tricks on us. We drop a i Uarter in a Jerry Lewis can at the 7- 'eVen, buy a Tootsie Roll for the mcn- lly disadvantaged, or give someone a ir of pants, and our minds are at ease. L eiliporarily. Because I am also haunted five worcis from Economic Justice For I, the bishops' pastoral on the U.S. e-. 'mOray: True charity leads to advo- Cacy.,, True charity is not apneasement COnscience; it tj e heainnirl of a, .; ', . { . .1 ,q lit . ~'J , : " Rolls alone don't do justice relationship that includes advocacy, work for justice Charity is normally an individual act of kindness. Sometimes it is anonymous. ("If I drop this buck in the Jerry Lewis can-a-ilion, it'll help file kids and keep my name off the mailing list.") It usu- ally solves an immediate crisis ("I've been wearing these pants for two years now") with a short-term solution ("take these great-looking striped bell bot- toms"). Best of all, the charity giver Off he went into the homeless '80s wearing my pants from a different era. usually ends up feeling great ("Good morning; I gave at 7-Eleven" or "I'here's my Tootsie Roll melted all over the dashboard. Have a great day"). Advocacy, on the other hand, is so- Cial, not individual. It is taking that extra step and working for justice. Involve- ment can range from phone calls to letter writing to picketing to civil dis- obedience. It's almost always public be- cause you're taking a stand. Advocacy is proactive, not reactive. It does not fo- cus on an immediate crisis, but con- centrates on long-term solutions. Structural or" systemic changes are at the heart of its agenda: not only giving money for Jerry's kids, but working for the rights of the handicapped for access to public transportation and access to life in general; not only buying Tootsie Rolls -for the 'mentally disadvantaged, but lobbying for a comprehensive mental-health "code and sufficient treatment facilities; not 0niy giving away pants and clothing, but advocating low- income housing, tqoanit~'" right,, ian:d. homeless rights. Advocacy--work for justice---is social, almost always public, arid deals with problems by offering a long-term solution that often leads to feelings of agitation among people. We can't blind ourselves to the pov- erty that stares in our faces. (In Wash- ington, DC, the Stale Department has declared a hotel off limits to foreign dignitaries because the homeless are huddled on the surrounding grates.) We have to be a people of charity who open our eyes to see people in need; we have to be a people of advocacy who open our ears to hear the long-term cries of the poor. ttaunted. The homeless man still haunts me. Because I know he's still out there. And two years later he's probably still wearing my pants. This haunting lures me to a deeper sense of charity and advocacy, both firmly rooted in Christian love. We need both; so does he. Next time you're at Mass, look for him. Maybe he's haunting you, too. (Reprinted with permission, SALT, 205 W. Monroe, Chicago, IL, 60606.) 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