on food pantry patrons and private college students

When you are materially poor – when your physical needs are not met – you can’t sit around denying it. You go and you find a way to get what you need.

When you are spiritually or relationally poor, you probably won’t even know it. You only know that something is not right, but you’ve got a thousand ways to try and fix it before you get down to the root of the matter.

When you are materially poor you learn how to ask for help, and if you’re lucky you don’t have to feel ashamed.

When you are materially wealthy you are not allowed to admit of a need. You carry it inside you and it gnaws at all the soft parts of you – but at least you have kept up appearances. You have not inconvenienced anyone.

When you are poor in any way you will probably try to fill up the hurt with an addiction, but you won’t know it because that is the first rule of addictions. You think that your need for alcohol or TV or junk food or approval or a skinny body or porn or video games is natural and normal. Or you think it makes you happy, and you say to yourself you deserve it. Everyone deserves something.

When you have a need of any kind, you want to ignore it because you remember that you are small and helpless and, you sometimes suspect, not even that good of a person. You start to hate yourself for being needy, or you puff up proud in denial and go around making assertions about your rights.

People – most people – only really come to God when we hit rock bottom because we know somehow that he will ask for everything. And when you feel empty the last thing you want is to give away more. You grasp and grab after everything remaining, you assign greater value to whatever you do have, those poor substitutes for wholeness. Most of us can’t give up everything until we have nothing left. Til confronted with our absolute inability to deserve anything. Ever.

Love gives everything, everything, all the good we can never produce for ourselves; but it asks for everything else, all the broken toys and bits of shiny things we’ve used to soothe ourselves in the meantime. But that’s a hard truth to keep intact, for food pantry patrons and private college students alike.


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  1. It’s really hard for me to summon a proper response to this other than “thank you.”
    I never thought of my addiction like this. Ever.

    • In my life, recognizing an addiction has always been half the battle. So glad to hear from you; it makes me feel like those struggles can be redeemed.

  2. Jacqueline in Atlanta

     /  November 7, 2012

    How did you get so wise, so youngly?


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