Dorothy Day, founder of The Catholic Worker, publication, and service program to the poor and spiritually bereft, began The Catholic Worker movement during the Depression, when people without jobs, hungry, lined up on the streets of New York City. Day had had a religious conversion, and she carried in her lifetime an almost Victorian sensibility that protected the ordinary human begin she had been – and continued to be – when she became a public figure.
As a 6 year old girl growing up in Oakland, Day witnessed the movement of people from San Francisco to Oakland in the days after the 1906 earthquake. What she observed then stayed with her as she grew into a bohemian adulthood: “people helped each other.” Day never lost that simple and profound way of looking at the possibilities people held within themselves. “People helped each other.”
We who live in community need to help one another. And what human being does not live in community? Community is a need we all have. When we don’t have community, we are lonely, or isolated, or both. When we don’t have community, we may have fears – who will accept me? who can I turn to? who can I talk to? It is difficult to reach out of one’s loneliness and isolation, it is difficult to reach out, but it is necessary for the growth of our own humanity.
As we all know, sometimes loneliness and isolation themselves are the only things that motivate us to reach toward community.
“People helped each other.” That is probably the one single, simple thing we need to do, we human beings that are given to one another in community. When people are hungry, we are hungry, for the hungry ones are part of our community. When people are restless, we are restless, because that restlessness resonates in us all.
It’s hard to understand why it is threatening to listen to the poor, to speak to the poor, to touch the poor, to notice the poor. But it is. Dorothy Day knew that – in her lifetime, she never lost the reputation of being radical – but she continued to believe and to live out of the value she held: “People helped each other.”
I still believe that we are here to help one another. Sometimes, that alone seems to be the motivation for our lives on this planet, in our communities, in our own community. If there is to be peace, then it needs to begin with our helping one another, feeding one another, touching one another, reaching out – to and for – one another.
“Peace begins when the hungry are fed.”