Smiles not judgement when you walk by the poor – John Dew


Most poverty in New Zealand is invisible. Unlike many parts of the world, the lives of most people living in financial hardship cannot be seen from the main streets in New Zealand says Cardinal John Dew.

Last week he released a letter to mark the third World Day of the Poor.

He says he starts each day with a walk around inner-city Wellington.

“The inner city looks different at 5 am, with mainly early morning workers and some rough sleepers on the streets, compared with later in the day when the city is bustling with activity,” he said.

“My early morning walk is a time of prayer, and I am grateful that it gives me a brief perspective into lives that might not always be visible.

By the time the sun has arisen, the rough sleepers have packed up their belongings and will have moved onto the Compassion Soup Kitchen or other social services of the city.

But there are still glimpses of our unequal society on the streets of central Wellington during the daytime, and equally, there are always some voices raised seeking to ban buskers and beggars and to block access to bins where food is discarded.”

Dew said poverty can be more in your face in the streets of South America and Europe than here in New Zealand.

“But sadly, the attitudes towards people experiencing poverty can be very similar. New Zealand has an enduring thread of judgmental attitudes toward the poor.”

He said homeless people, rough sleepers and beneficiaries, are noted in regular outbreaks of vitriol towards those of our neighbours who have it rough.

Examine your conscience:

Dew invited people to examine their conscience in the week leading up to the World Day of the Poor.

He said smile before offering judgement or anything else.

Click here to read the whole letter.


  • Supplied

David McLoughlin
Communications Adviser, NZ Catholic Bishops
Te Huinga o ngā Pīhopa Katorika o Aotearoa



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