Sometimes I’m asked about why I named my company Our Eyes Were Opened, Inc. Well, the Inc. part is just part of being a company.
The name, Our Eyes Were Opened, however, has several underlying meanings to it.
- When I was at United Ministries and led workshops, took people on poverty tours, or just talked about what I was learning about poverty, people often said, “My eyes were opened.”
- In Luke 24:13-35, we read the story about two guys walking to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus himself joined them but as the passage says, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” When they reached their destination, they invited Jesus to spend the night. Then we read, “When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” I think when we allow ourselves to revise our prejudices, myths, preconceptions, and judgments about people who live in poverty, our eyes are opened and we indeed encounter the HOLY.
- In Genesis 3 we read about the interaction of the serpent with Eve and the consequent eating of the desired fruit by both Adam and Eve. Verses 6&7 pick up the story: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked…” When we are willing to learn more about the effects and impacts of living in poverty, we begin to see our own responsibility in the persistence of poverty. We see our own culpability, our own sin.
- I recently came across this quote from John Wareham who teaches prisoners how to write poems. (“Let them write poems,” The Optimist, Winter 2015, p 14) He tells the prisoners: “If you go through the readings each week…and if you’re serious about it, you cannot get to the final class without having your thinking seriously altered, or your eyes seriously opened. “ At the end of the course, Wareham says,”Going forward, you won’t be innocent anymore. Since your eyes are opened now, you will know that you do have a choice.” And that’s what I hope to instill in people who participate in an Our Eyes Were Opened event. They cannot NOT see poverty again. They do indeed have a choice.