Treasures Await Where You Least Expect

I was walking through Quito on a sunny day and passed a homeless woman asking for money. I stopped and found a dollar in my pocket, and returned and squatted down to her and handed her the dollar while offering a greeting. I moved to one knee, and we began to talk. Her name is Lourdes Gallegos, and after talking for a while, she looked at me and said, “Are you a missionary?” I said, yeah, sort of. She asked me if I would ask others to pray for her and her family. I assured her, sure. By that time we were having a long conversation, just two fellow human beings, brother and sister in life. I was talking to someone just like me. Like talking to another self.

Some 20 plus years ago, when I was a younger guy living in the Back Bay of Boston and making a lot of money, I used to get upset at all the homeless people around. I mean, angry and annoyed. Get a job, I would think – and sometimes say it. You know what the problem was? They were “homeless”. I was just seeing them from the outside. They weren’t really people.

It wasn’t until I started to experience the dawning of grace in my life that I started to realize that there is a lot hidden behind appearances. God is hidden. And one day a movement inside me grew out and made take the step beyond the surface. I worked past the fear and awkwardness and crouched down, and as I began to talk and dialogue, everything else melted away and I realized that they were just real people. People like me. Beyond all that stigma and messiness was – another self. And it was hidden behind homelessness in the streets. That’s the sign that shows where God is.

Maybe the greatest story of the conversion of St. Francis of Assisi is the day, after coming back a failure in his military dreams, he sees a leper coming toward him from a distance. Having always been repulsed by lepers to avoid them, this time he does something completely different: he comes down from his horse, and embraces and kisses the leper, and gives him some money. From then on, he saw leprosy as the sign of where human treasures were hidden, people just like him, and he began to live with and share with lepers. Discovering the miracle of the hidden God.

I was in a few taxi cab rides recently in Quito, where I like to talk to the drivers and ask them about what they see happening in Quito and Ecuador. On two successive days, I talked to drivers who were thinking of migrating to the US. In their perspective, there’s no work in Ecuador, the situation is worse than ever after the pandemic, and in the States there is plenty of work. Get $4k or more, and they can practically risk their lives to pass first through the dangerous Amazon into Colombia, in canoes and snake-invested jungle. Then they make their way up stage by stage in the channels that exist. We talked about how difficult it is to go legally and get a visa in the US. And of course, we talked about my own situation: I’m in the process of trying to get a visa: in Ecuador. I’m going the other way!

So, one driver stopped in the middle of our conversation, noticing this reality: “We’re all trying to go up there, and you’re trying to come here!”  We laughed. But I could tell it threw him into a curveball of some deep thoughts. So, I said, “It’s because I find treasures here. I find God here.”

Remember that everything we have, our possessions and money and talents and abilities, our time, is a means to discover treasure in people. Jesus in the manger and on the cross points us to where God is. He is hidden, below the surfaces and appearances. In the places that society and our natural affections wouldn’t expect. While everyone wants to climb the mountain of life, don’t be afraid to go the other way.

Treasures – and the hidden God – await.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44)


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