Friendship with people who are poor often exposes our excess. This is especially the case if we move in and out of one another’s worlds. We do not want to be guilt-ridden and anxious about our lifestyles, but we do want to move in the direction of justice and generosity. Getting a handle on simplicity that is full of grace is often challenging.
I (Chris) remember one incident well. I had just returned home from my time with the Missionaries of Charity in India. It was my first exposure to terrible poverty and death, and I was struggling
to make sense of the disparities I encountered everywhere on my return. One of my younger brothers and I were playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! (maybe the best video game ever) on the original Nintendo system. As we played, my brother said, “Man, I’m starving. Want to get something to eat? ” Given where I had spent the previous months, it set me off. I immediately thought of the corpses of the young men and women who had actually died of complications
from being undernourished. So I promptly replied, “Dude, you don’t know what it means to starve.”
My brother, in an attempt to restate his original comment in a way he thought would be less offensive to me, tried again: “I haven’t eaten all day, and I’m hungry.” Still upset, I replied, “Well, how about I call a bunch of slum churches in India to start a prayer chain for you? ”
It is not easy to move back and forth between different worlds, but I have had to learn that the grace and generosity I share with my friends on the margins is equally important for friends and relatives at home. Just because they aren’t as regularly exposed to the tensions doesn’t mean they deserve less respect or love. My lifestyle needs to be an invitation, not a bludgeon, that helps others to choose simplicity and generosity because it is appealing.
— “Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission,” by Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl (IVP, 2010): page 128-129