In his 2001 article, “People of the Scarred Coin,” Tom McKenna, C.M., explores Vincent de Paul’s understanding of human dignity. McKenna suggests that if Vincent were asked “why help this disheveled old man?” he would have replied “because you’ve seen through to the other side of the coin.”1 Vincent describes an ordinary, bent, scarred coin that lies on the ground and is ignored by those walking past it. He is drawing a parallel to the way that some walk past or ignore those on the margins in their lives. Some may see a homeless woman on the street and ignore her because of how she looks. Some may hear a man asking for change but pretend to not hear him.
When asked again, “why treat that common nobody on the ground as if he is somebody?” Vincent instructed, “I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence […] but turn the medal [coin], and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.”2
Sometimes a person’s appearance or personality clashes with our view of the world. Vincent de Paul challenges us to not walk past the homeless woman on the street or ignore the man asking for change. As Vincentians, we are invited to see the dignity inherent in every single person we meet. As Vincentians, we are called to see through to the other side of the coin.
When thinking about your experiences with those on the margins, how have you seen through to the other side of the coin? What are some of the obstacles that prevent you from “turning the coin?”
1) Thomas McKenna, C.M., S.T.D., “People of the Scarred Coin,” Vincentian Heritage 22:2 (2001), 205. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol22/iss2/5/
2) Conference 19, The Spirit of Faith, CCD, 11:26.
Reflection by: Michael Van Dorpe, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Mission & Ministry
This past Saturday, October 10, was World Homeless Day. This week, the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) will be sharing more about their efforts to end street homelessness throughout the world.
Save the Date: October 21st, 8 a.m. CST. Join IGH and United Nations Habitat for an event featuring international youth activists and a rousing discussion on “Leave No One Behind: Ending Youth Global Homelessness in the Decade of Action.” Follow IGH on Facebook and/or Twitter for event updates and registration links.