I’d like to start this with a lengthy quotation that haunts me still, although I encountered this fable as a college student (more years ago than I care to admit):

A Fable

They were not overdressed, but their clothes spoke of quality, impeccable with a hint of flair—the right balance for the morning’s gathering. On this fall Sunday the four of them had just come from morning worship service at their church in the near suburbs.

One of the couples seemed in their mid-twenties, at that point where youthful enthusiasm haas merged with the air of confidence from early business success. Their companions appeared in the prime of middle age, reflecting a subdued pride of accomplishment mixed with physical well-being born of careful diet and measured exertion.

They had chosen a restaurant table near, but not next to, the tinted window, a location affording a view without distraction. After sutable study of the oversized menu, featuring samples in four-color views, each husband placed an order. In due course the diners were enjoying the cuisine, paced with relaxed conversation. They murmured proper appreciation of the dishes set before them, each laden with ample serving.

The young wife saw them first. Perhaps the two youngsters had left their customary alley route for a short cut beside the eating place. Maybe some movement among the diners caught the children’s notice. Or the seductive aroma may have beckoned them. What ever the reason, there they were, faces pressed to the window. They said nothing to each other, but stared at the tastefully set tables, the finely dressed patrons, and the heaping servings.

The pair’s color was uncertain. Perhaps brown; or black. A generous trimming of grime on each face blurred the hue. Their skin matched their clothes, dirty with a thoroughness achieved only over many days. They were not exactly thin, but their gaunt faces and the dullness in their eyes hinted at a lack of proper food.

The young wife stared, saying nothing. The sudden lump in her throat, born of a surge of pity, blocked words. She gently laid down her food-laden fork, but its soft tap against the plate drew the attention of the others at the table. Without a spoken question, they followed her line of sight. And they, too, became arrested by the sad tableau at the window.

Perhaps a dozen thoughts scampered through the young woman’s mind. Among them were words she vaguely associated with the morning’s sermon. The message, she seemed to recall, had something to do with responsibility to neighbors.

Here husband broke the silence. “Seeing those hungry faces makes this steak taste a little flat,” he ventured. The older man nodded his agreement. His wife added, “How can you look at them and not do something?”

“What can we do?” challenged her husband.

“It’s so simple, so obvious,” she answered with disdain, looking from the still-steaming food to the hungry eyes.

She pushed back from the table. With an unaccustomed directness she strode almost silently across the carpet. Straight to the window she moved, found the tassled cord dangling at the wall, and firmly pulled it. With only a sibilant swish the heavy, almost luxurious, drapery material shut out the view. The drapes swayed for a moment before their weight stilled the motion.

Resuming her seat, the young woman reached fro her fork. “There now,” she said brightly, “isn’t that much better?”

(from Endangered Species by Dunn, Loring, and Strickland, Broadman Press, Nashville, pp. 121-123)

Poverty has a face. It is a face that we would like to ignore. But if we look around us, we will find it staring through our window. Whether we are in the city, the suburbs, or even in a village such as the one where I live, poverty is with us. We must do something. Let me offer a couple of possible actions:

  • Donate to a charity that focuses on iradicating poverty.
  • Volunteer your time at a shelter or soup kitchen.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the faces in your window.