Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: the poor

28 Simple Ways to Become Compassionate


We are trying to do something new at the Tacoma Catholic Worker where we live in relationship with so many who are marginalized and have no voice in our culture.  This saddens me because the poor have so much to offer us.  Many of them no longer believe that others care about what they have to say or who they are.  Even though we do many services for those on the margins, we are reluctant to really listen to them and the things they care about.

So we are trying to be better listeners to the poor, oppressed and marginalized in our neighborhood.  This week at our Tuesday night liturgy meal, I facilitated a conversation with a bunch of people about their thoughts on a specific question.  The question I came up with was: How can we become more compassionate people?  The question thrown out there was especially for those who might feel marginalized and voiceless.

Many people who come to our liturgy are extremely poor, with no homes, very little money and a lot of mental illness.  Some are depressed, most are hungry for food, thirsty for something to drink and hurting for relationship.  Some of the people have given up on God or been rejected by the church because of the way they look and act.  Some are drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, immigrants, have recently come out of prison, unemployed, disabled, struggle with their physical health or are working beneath a livable wage job where they get treated unfairly.

But on this day I found out that those who feel like they have no voice have some prophetic things to say to us.  I am coming to see that there is no salvation outside the poor.  It is the poor who save us from the illusion of the affluent life of meaninglessness that it seem many of us pursue on a path of upward mobility.  Why are we so afraid to listen to the cries of the poor?

This night I broke out of my fear to open myself up to really listen to those who Jesus said what you do for one of the least of these you are doing to me.  We need to listen more to Jesus through the poor.  This could change everything about how we experience life, care for others and live in community.

Here are 28 ways that were expressed in our conversation about how we can become more compassionate toward those who feel marginalized.

1. Focus on what we have in common with one another

2. Show love and respect

3. Share some food together

4. Don’t be so judgmental

5. Take a posture of understanding

6. Listen and hear others

7. Have more availability for others to take showers in our homes

8. Engage in action that comes from the heart

9. Become open to the wisdom they bring to us

10. Be compassionate toward yourself first

11. Live for the benefit of others

12. Find ways to be together

13. Share our assets

14. Daily acts of kindness and reflection

15. Cultivate patience

16. Have a true motive of genuine care

17. Come out of your own box

18. Respond to suffering

19. Get to know each other

20. Share our thoughts and stories

21. Share our lives together

22. Engage in the process and conversion of compassion

23. Walk with others

24. Take it slow

25. Stop to pause before we immediately respond to someone

26. Realize that we all want the same thing, not to be dehumanized

27. Help someone out while feeling with emotion

28. Refuse to be bitter and hateful

What has touched you through this story?

Discovering the Tacoma Catholic Worker


After about five years of living in Downtown Tacoma, I started to become more curious about the poverty in our parish.  I asked myself, “Who are the poor and what are people doing to be in relationship with them in our neighborhood?”  I soon learned about the Tacoma Catholic Worker which was a few blocks from where I was living.

  • 8 houses and a community garden all within one block

The community was founded in 1989 when a Jesuit priest named Bill Bichsel, who is now 86 years old, and some other friends wanted to care for those with mental illnesses in the neighborhood.  The Catholic Worker consists of eight houses and a big community garden all within one block.  Our Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship was (and is) so inspired by their commitment to proximity within the parish and the poor among us!

  •  Making space to be more present in everyday life

As I studied the writings of Dorothy Day and New Monastic writers like Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, I was so intrigued by their emphasis on hospitality and their understanding of community as a way of life.  I wanted to make space in everyday life to be more present to the poor in our neighborhood, to understand their uniqueness and listen to their voices.  I was convinced that this is where I would find Christ residing in the lives of the homeless, the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, the mentally ill, and the addicted.

  •  Seeing Christ in the poor

My leadership began to take a new shape as I was drawn to see Christ in the poor in everyday life, to share life with them, to become their friends, to love them and learn their names.  What a powerful movement this was of God in my life, to lead me to care for the poor, to work less so that I could be more present to them by making space within my way of life.

  •  Moving to the Catholic Worker in September 2010

I wanted to be with the poor, so I asked some of my new Catholic Worker friends what I would have to do to become a Catholic Worker.  Moving into one of their houses intrigued me a lot.  They soon made space for me to practice my faith among the poor in community with them.  I moved into one of their houses at the beginning of September 2010.

  •  A way of life based on simplicity, love, compassion, justice, and hospitality

This has been an amazing experience for me!  It is what I believe God had been leading me to and I have found something that resonates deeply within me.  The Catholic Workers promote a way of life that is based on simplicity, love, compassion, justice, and hospitality.  I have now been at the Catholic Worker for about four years, and I have learned so much from the poor of our neighborhood.

  •  Making space within myself for the poor

Their uniqueness is always speaking to me.  Christ is teaching me to follow him by having a more simplistic way of life where I make space within myself for the poor as an act of hospitality.  Seeing Christ in the poor in everyday life is helping me to understand what life is without the illusions of escaping what is hard.  Our Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship is learning so much about making space in our lives for the poor among us through collaborating with the Tacoma Catholic Worker.

Where do you find God working within you in your own context?

Hospitality to the Poor, Oppressed and Marginalized as a Way of Life


As I have lived at the Tacoma Catholic Worker for the past four years I have learned a lot about hospitality as a way of life together with others.  I am learning to share life with people I did not think I had anything in common with.  The particular house I live in is called The Guadalupe House and the primary function of its hospitality is proving showers, transitional housing, meals and mail to friends who struggle to have these basics needs met in their everyday lives.

  • A weekly liturgy dinner for the poor

We have four meals every week together and on Tuesday nights we do a weekly liturgy dinner for the poor where our friends can come and share their spirituality with others in a nonjudgmental way.  A lot of our friends live in shelters, cars or sleep outside.  Some of our friends also have houses and apartments too.  This is beautiful because it brings the poor and the middle class together in friendship and love.

  • Finding the commonalities rather than our differences

At the dinner table everyone is equal as we find our commonalities in realizing that we all need to eat whether we have a lot of money or not.  I am eating with folks of different races, languages, classes, ages.  This has been so countercultural and beautiful to experience.  The lesson I am constantly learning is to find the commonalities with others rather than our differences.

  • Using our houses in a hospitable way

The Tacoma Catholic Worker has eight houses all within one block in our neighborhood.  It is kind of like an urban village where the poor are welcomed and not shunned.  We use our houses in a hospitable way where we live with others anywhere from several months to several years.  We give our friends a place to work on their goals of getting income, work, housing, sobriety, reestablishing relationships with children and becoming healthy physically and mentally.

  • Providing a refuge for someone struggling with immigration

There is an ICE detention center for immigrants close by and we recently have worked with an organization that helps get others out to work on their immigration.  One of the rooms at The Guadalupe House is for someone coming from ICE.  It is a blessing to provide a refuge for someone that is struggling with immigration and a new life in this country.

  • Seeing Christ in the poor

I am learning so much from the Tacoma Catholic Worker.  One thing our community constantly practices is seeing Christ in the poor by our compassion, love and hospitality in everyday life together.  I see the Tacoma Catholic Worker as an expression of being the church together in our neighborhood where we live out the works of mercy with others who are hurting and lonely.

  • Eating together and showing hospitality could change everything

The simple acts of eating together and showing hospitality in the place we live could change the body of Christ and the world around us.  This is the most revolutionary thing I have ever seen and experienced.  As I continue on in my journey here, the poor will continually teach me of Christ among us.

How can we practice hospitality as a way of life?

Book Review – The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom by Jamie Arpin-Ricci

download (1)

I love this book by Jamie Arpin Ricci!  The Cost of Community goes through the life of St. Francis of Assisi and Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount to demonstrate how we are to embody the kingdom of God in the here and now as the body of Christ.  Jamie Arpin Ricci offers many true stories from the work of Little Flowers Community in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  I was inspired to seek righteousness through the quality of my relationships where love, mercy and compassion can be practiced with the poor in community.

  • Righteousness is manifested in the quality of our relationships 

“…righteousness describes the quality of relationships which characterizes life together in the kingdom.”

  • Jesus is calling us to live counterculturally

“Jesus is calling his people – he is commanding us – to live counterculturally.  To do otherwise in this respect is not only an act of disobedience but an active step into the very bondage that robs us of our freedom to live obediently.”

  • Finding Christ in the poor

“Christ says we will find him in and among the poor and hungry…”

  • Living into the here and now

“…righteousness is better understood through the lens of justice, that is, right relationship with others, especially in respect to those on the margins, ‘the least of these.’  Again we are reminded that God’s kingdom and justice transform the here and now, affecting the whole of creation, not just some imagined, spiritual segment of our being; such a division between the physical and the spiritual is foreign to Christ.  Every individual and even all of creation was understood to be indivisibly whole…”

  • A way of life which is not impossible to follow

“Jesus would not call us into a lifestyle that is impossible to follow…”

  • The soil of belonging, the embrace of authentic community

“…we are prone to look at our salvation in Christ through purely individualistic terms.  Rather, Jesus has (by the Holy Spirit) made us into his body, the church.  Therefore, it is in the soil of belonging, in the embrace of true community, that the seed of belief can best be reborn to new life.  Unless that seed has the life-giving, life-sustaining soil in which to be planted, we cannot expect its transformation.”

  • Looking for the plank in our own eye

“After all, the greatest threat to our faith is ourselves.  Again we are reminded that we are to look for the plank in our own eye, examining our own heart and the choices borne there.  Our impulse is to look outside of ourselves to assign the blame for our failings and compromises, but we must nurture the disciplines of self-examination, mutual confession and hopeful affirmation.  Jesus laid out the right path for us, but we must set foot on it, every moment of every day, entering by the gate of his cross to pursue and participate in his kingdom.”

How can we pursue the cost of community?

Seeing Similarities Instead of Differences


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?