One day we will be the ‘dead’ generation … have we empowered the next generation to care for us?
Having reached 60 years, I’ve heard this Gospel more than 50 times, and remembered it maybe 40 times. The obvious message is about the importance of helping the destitute, etc.
But how does that help a society where so many think death is the end = don’t worry about later, just enjoy yourself now. But, now, I see so many lonely elders sitting in their retirement villages, or home alone with few visitors.
It’s important we see death here, not as our physical dying, but as the stage of life when we lose our health, lose our status and become dependent on others again.
With that thought in mind, it should make us do two things:
1. Appreciate our parents for what they sacrificed to give us a chance in life;
2. Open our eyes to how much we rely on others for our well-being;
In recent years the Church and Popes have focused on the importance of the family. So, what might this parable look if Jesus was speaking to this generation?
“There was a successful businessman who left his home early every morning and came home late. He knew his children were in bed when he left but never wanted to disturb them. When he returned each night he was tired and needed to rest and enjoy a cold beer. He never realised his children were lonely. He always gave them many presents in the brief moments he said hello to them. Later on, the children grew up and became busy and successful, also. By this time, the father had retired (died) and sat at home amongst all his expensive toys and furniture. He called his children to come and eat with him, but they said they were busy.”
Note that Jesus doesn’t talk about Lazarus as someone in the market square, or a poor person overseas. Jesus says “lying at his door”. So, the emphasis from God is to ask us today:
Do I share what I have with those who live in my house, or live next door? And, what is it that we have to share? Money is OK. But many beggars in Nairobi city wouldn’t recognise me in the future because I drop a few coins or a tropical mint into their box. What they remember/ treasure is that someone stopped and talked to them: to know their name and their life.
Excuse me if it sounds like boasting – if anything you might think I gave too little – but let me share two stories.
One day I visited Nairobi City and a street boy asked me for some money, pointing to his mouth and touching his stomach. I stopped and thought for a moment, which immediately attracted two or three other boys to join us. So, I said “come with me to my friend’s restaurant.” By the time we arrived, there were about 10 boys. I asked permission to bring them in and we went upstairs and took over two tables – my friend and his son also joined in. We ordered tea and chapatti. They were full of smiles. We talked to them and asked their names and why they lived on the streets: mainly due to violence/ abuse at home.
A lady was shining my shoes and we talked about her struggles: city officials demanding bribes because she could not afford the business licence – creating an endless cycle of poverty. I went home sad. I called the friend who directed me to her for a shoe shine and he agreed to help her get a licence with money I sent to him. She was so happy. Three weeks later, I visited her again and she was very grateful. She had purchased two shirts for me to say thanks and had carried them for the last three weeks hoping to see me. You could see she was maybe 40, but she looked about 55/60. Struggling to care for her children at school.
Both events were God Moments. Money was just like the oil in an engine: it helped the engine turn, but oil doesn’t generate power to move a vehicle. The power in these God Moments was the peace and joy generated by the goodness in each person. We all went home feeling ‘richer’.
What is important in both events is not just the individual, but how the Moments the individuals experienced, benefitted the wider community. The boys felt valued and nourished and, hopefully, they will not do violence because of hunger or anger. The lady was strengthened/ encouraged, and able to use more money on her children instead of paying bribes.
So, the question for us today could be: “do I empower and nurture my community, or use my community, to make myself richer?” If we who are able, do not empower the next generations, there will be much suffering for us when we become the “dead” generation.
Who is lying at your door?
By Gerard Conlan, OMI