Finding God on the ‘L’

Posted on: February 19th, 2014

By Lisa Reiter
Director of Campus Ministry

If one has the eyes to see, and the ears to hear, one can find God on the L.   I did.  But God did not come to me in an elderly person grateful to me because I gave them my seat, nor did God come to me in a smiling, cooing baby.  God came to me in a drunken bum.

His name is Reginald.

He was making a scene.  Loud.  Obnoxious.  Unwashed.  Grizzled.  The American version of an untouchable.  He was panhandling for money.

I asked him his name.

“Reginald.”  And he sat down beside me.  At the next stop, those who could, moved away from us.  As he took my hand, I could smell the alcohol wafting off of him.  It was 11:00 a.m.

So there we sat, together, holding hands and talking.  He calmed down.  I asked him about his family, his life.  In that conversation, that human touch, by calling him by name, human dignity in both of us was restored.  At my stop, we wished each other well, and he blessed me.

Respecting human dignity is a fundamental theme of Catholic social justice teaching.  By virtue of our education at Loyola we have power and privilege.  From this power and privilege, we have the responsibility to protect and advocate for those who are poor, vulnerable, and marginalized.

In conversations with students, I have learned that they feel uncomfortable and awkward around homeless people, especially during these random encounters.  There is much that we can do.  If there is a homeless person whom you see on your regular routes to and from class or work, stop and ask them their name.  Dean Kathy Getz, Quinlan School of Business recommended to me that when dining out, ask the waiter to package up leftovers and to include disposable silverware.  On your way home, if you have the eyes to see, you will find someone who is hungry.  And on the L, when everyone else has their eyes down, have courage.  Ask the person, “what is your name?”

Then see what happens.  Certainly in all of these encounters, be mindful of your surroundings.

Pope Francis continues to inspire and challenge me.  With these words, he affirms what I discovered that day on L:

“I have a dogmatic certainty:  God is in every person’s life.  God is in everyone’s life.  Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life.”

Let those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, anything can happen on the L.

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