Seeing Similarities Instead of Differences

by Mark Votava


I grew up being extremely sheltered from others who have not been raised like me.  The church did not teach me that knowing the poor or caring for the poor are important in the teachings of Jesus.  Sometimes I feel ashamed to be an American.

  • Seeing my similarities with others

I have learned a gospel without hospitality and love.  I was taught to fear the poor, the stranger, the Native American, the Mexican, the Latino, the African-American, the Asian and those from the Middle East.  This has never really seemed authentic to me, so I started to become more open to a practice of hospitality.  On this journey I am learning to see my similarities with others more than my differences.

  • Understanding the beginning of a friends story

My friend Larry is a Native American man who is homeless.  He grew up in a dysfunctional home.  His father was not there for him.

  • Larry did not receive much care

Larry often stole stuff from stores because he did not have much growing up.  He soon found himself in juvenile detention and he dropped out of high school.  Larry was shipped around to foster homes where he did not receive much care.  He now is in his fifties and has lived on the streets for a long time.

  • His life seems sad to most people

One day when I was walking home after a movie, I saw him sleeping in the bushes off of Fawcett Street.  He regularly comes to the Catholic Worker House in our neighborhood to take a shower and socialize on the porch with others.  His life seems sad to most people who live in houses and apartments, but I am discovering how God cares for Larry just as much as he cares for me.

  • Longing for friends and human connection

I am coming out of my blindness to see Larry in all his mystery and value as a human being.  It is fascinating how much I learn from Larry as I spend time with him.  He loves the sitcom Friends from the 90’s.  I believe it resonates with him because he longs for friends and human connection like all of us.

  • Christ lives in and through the poor

Larry does not like to be lonely, but oftentimes that is his experience.  He is always so cheerful, respectful and kind.  He is a model to me of the caring presence of Jesus in our midst.  I don’t know if Larry thinks of himself this way, but Christ lives in and through the poor among us.

  • Through the faces and stories of the poor

I am reminded that God shows me himself through the faces and stories of the poor.  Jesus was the poor, the lonely, the crucified, the betrayed, the abandoned, the marginalized, the vulnerable.  I want to embrace the life of Jesus through caring for the poor, showing hospitality and finding the similarities between us.

How can we start to practice a hospitality of love?