“The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.” (H. Nouwen)
We live in a society that tends to discard things that are slightly faulty. Our thriving thrift stores, yard sales around every corner, and bursting garages are a clear witness of this. Perhaps the ease with which we discard damaged belongings is connected to the plethora of options we have to replace those broken goods. Many of us lack the time and patience to fix a damaged good, and would rather add another ‘Made in China’ product to our possessions. After all, those imports are as cheap as chips!
Sadly, this attitude is often used towards people. High divorce rates are an indication of this. Rife homelessness is another sign. The recent proposed cuts in government spending by slashing government programs that serve the elderly and the poor, yet another. Why invest in a troubled marriage with so many fish out in the great big sea? Why spend time with a broken human being who wasn’t strong enough to keep up with today’s world and its demands? And the elderly and the poor? Come on now, millionaires and billionaires need to be our priority as they are the ones who create the jobs after all!
One might argue, discarding a broken object and turning our back on those who need us most are altogether different. But you see, in essence they are not. To discard someone because of their inability to make us happy, their apparent woundedness, or because of the burden they have become, is very similar to piling up our garages with old couches, broken furniture, and faulty bikes. We are just ridding ourselves of that which does not benefit our needs, our interests, us anymore. The only difference lies in that our old couch was man made; the poor, the old, the broken remain children of God, created in His image.
The other difference is that I doubt God spends much time crying over a discarded couch, but His heart breaks in a way that we can never fully fathom for the destitute whom we have likewise discarded. The Bible is stained with His tears, heavy with His righteous anger over such injustices. Dismissing someone purely because of their brokenness, regardless of its shape and form, is not what our Savior taught us and lived out through His own life amongst us and so, since when have we become so flippant about bartering obedience and love with ruthless power and greed?
I use ‘we’ to include myself. I am not particularly fond of self-righteousness. But then, neither do I want to communicate that, around me, all I know are materialist, greedy, unloving, and selfish fellow human beings. That would be a lie. These last few weeks, I have been sharing about a local non-profit, Mika Community Development Corporation, that works with low-income Latino immigrants in Costa Mesa. Immigrants are frequently termed as quite the costly, inconvenient burden, which is why I was drawn to Mika’s work and mission. So far, I have shared photos of neighbors from three communities. Today, I share photos from the last neighborhood, Baker Street, Mika’s most recent addition to the communities that it is so committed to help out of poverty, dependence, and stigma.
I recently joined Walter Garcia, Mika’s neighborhood advisor for Baker Street, and listened and observed as he talked with neighbors who want to make a change in their community, and who are being empowered to do so on their own terms and through their own strengths, skills, gifts, and abilities. Precious wealth is often hidden behind the mask of weakness. If only we didn’t find weakness so repulsive…
Originally from Guatemala, Walter has been on staff with Mika for the last three and a half years, and has been pivotal in gaining the trust of city officials, police officers, and other community agency leaders in Costa Mesa. His Bachelor’s degree in Human Development has equipped Walter with an understanding of what it takes to motivate underserved people to recognize their leadership abilities and prompt the change and growth needed and desired in their communities.
One of the families of Baker Street that is involved in Mika’s neighborhood development program.
Although most of the neighborhood leaders in all four communities are women, Mika has seen an increasing interest expressed by the men of these communities. Men and women are taking on leadership roles within their neighborhoods and becoming much-needed role models for the youth and children amongst them. One example would be Luis and Lydia, a married couple who, a few months ago, decided that it was time for Luis to give up his second job and join his wife in mentoring young couples in the Baker neighborhood. The couple has participated in Mika’s Healthy Marriage courses and is now leading a Healthy Marriage initiative for all of Mika’s four neighborhoods.
Story by Nathalie Borg Seale | Photos by Joshua Seale