A short time ago, I saw a homeless person on a bench using an old cell phone… for what purpose, I have no idea, because it was none of my business. He looked to be about 60 years old. I also saw and overheard a small group of younger people walk by who decided it was their business. “Where do you think he got that?” “If he has money to pay for a cell, he can’t be that bad off.” “I bet he stole it.” The persons making these comments had no idea just how mean they were. What made it even worse is that the homeless person could also hear the comments. My heart just sank as the homeless person kept his head down and didn’t respond.

As I stood there, I knew if I responded, I would create a dangerous situation because of how angry I became. My hands became fists, and I could feel the hair on the back of my neck. I took a deep breath and thanked God no one from the group decided they would assault the man and try to rip the phone from his hands because that’s the scenario I imagined. The next moment I asked God to soften my heart and the hearts of those in that group. I asked God to protect this homeless person.

Later on, I asked myself if society really hates the poor and homeless people that much. Why does the first thought of a homeless person with a cell phone have to be so terrible? I depend on my cell phone to stay connected to just about everything and everyone. It is one of the most important tools I have. So why wouldn’t I want a homeless person to have one? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to be resentful toward a homeless person with a cell phone, a decent car, or decent clothes, or anything else worthy that people need.

The next time you see a homeless person or a poor person with something that doesn’t seem to fit your idea of what they deserve, please try something different: stop and think. Why would we want to worsen any shame someone might already experience over their current lot in life? Believe it or not, God is watching our reactions every single time. And if we really want the world to be a better place, then we need to try adding some mercy to it, especially if we find ourselves part of a group that starts yapping over such things. It’s way more important to value how God sees us over a handful of people who choose hate and resentment. We try to teach school children the virtues of mercy, sharing, and compassion – so they value their homeless and impoverished schoolmates as much as anyone else.

Keep fighting the good fight of peace and love.

Father Mark