Theresa is a 62-year-old chronic alcoholic street person. Her face is so weathered she looks like she’s lived three harsh lifetimes. A public restroom in the center of small town Charity, in Guyana, was her ‘home’.
Theresa would beg tips from people coming to use the restroom in exchange for keeping it clean and providing toilet paper. When she wasn’t manning the restroom, she swept the streets, accepting change from passersby in return. Though townsfolk scorned her and treated her as a lowly beggar, in Theresa’s mind, she was earning her keep. But the town of Charity recently condemned and demolished that public restroom facility—Theresa’s home and livelihood.
Cross Catholic’s ministry partner, the Incarnate Word order of priest and nuns there, did exactly what Jesus would have done. They opened up a room in one of the parish facilities for Theresa to lay her head. They reserve a plate for her when they feed school kids, and the nuns share meals with her at the convent. The parish outreach committee also provides Theresa with clothing and other basic needs.
After putting up with insults and abuse from strangers most of her life, Theresa does not take such kindness for granted. Theresa attends Mass faithfully. And she still ventures out to earn her keep sweeping the streets. But when she does get a few coins—she goes to the convent and gives it to the nuns! One of the nuns told me, “We try to convince her to keep it but she absolutely insists we take it!”
I can just hear Jesus repeating his comment in Luke 21:3 when he observed a woman dropping her last two coins into the temple treasury: “This poor widow has put in more than all the others.”