There will not be justice until each person is
satisfied being any person in the world,
in any situation, anywhere.
--Elizabeth A. Johnson, Abounding in Kindness


Browse the daily news to find a story of a disenfranchised person, someone who has been forced to the outer edges of society by some type of poverty and exclusion – or select someone from the following list of people on the margins:
a political prisoner sentenced to thirty years’ hard labor
a middle-aged man addicted to opioids
a blind woman begging on a crowded street
a ten-year-old boy soldier with a rebel group
an undocumented mother of five children
a person with a mental illness who has no financial income
a teenager trafficked for sex
a six-year-old orphan in one of the world’s largest slums
a thirteen-year-old teen in a street gang
a prostitute whose pimp beats her
a homeless alcoholic lying in an alleyway
a widow who has lived for ten years in a refugee camp
a father working three jobs to provide for his family
a family living amid the rubble of a bombed village

This reflection offers a way to enter the life of someone on the margins of society when the opportunity to meet in person is not possible. This meditation provides a way to engender empathy and let go of stereotypes that keep compassion locked out.

As you begin to imagine how it might be to live as the particular person you have selected, first set an intention to put aside your personal judgments and biases about him or her. Pause to open your mind and heart to the compassionate Spirit of Jesus. Pray that you will get to know the marginalized person you selected with the kindness that he manifested when marginalized people came to him.

Now, try to picture this person at a certain age. Become him or her as fully as you can. Get to know their physical, external appearance: What do you look like? What ethnicity are you? What kind of clothes are you wearing; do they need washing or mending? Do you also sleep in those clothes? Do you have more than one set of clothing?

Imagine what a typical day is like for you. Where do you wake up? Are you rested? What happens when you wake up? What do you hear? Do you wake up to quiet, to noise, to yelling, to confusion or fear? Do you have a routine or is the morning chaotic? What is the place like where you have been sleeping? Is it cluttered, dirty, or clean? What do you see around you? Do you have furniture? Pictures on the walls? What do you smell? Is the odor pleasant, repugnant, harmful? Are there insects or rodents in your place?

How does your body feel? Is there pain in some part of your physical self? If so, what is the cause of it? Do you have the means to take care of it, to try to lessen the pain or the discomfort?

Do you have water? If so, what is the source of it? Is the water clean? Are you limited in how much water you can use? Are you able to brush your teeth? Can you go to the toilet in private? Is there any place to bathe? Are you physically able to wash yourself or does someone have to help you?

Imagine what you, as this person, are thinking and feeling about your life at this moment. Do you have hope? Are you discouraged? Despairing? Is there anything that brings you joy?

If you go to work, what kind of job do you have? What are the physical conditions like? Are they safe and humane? Does your job pay a just wage? Do you have insurance? How are you treated at work? How many hours do you have to work?

Now, move to the end of the day. Look back and review what the day has been like for you. What time is it when you can finally pause and have time for yourself? How do you feel? Exhausted, lonely, scared, angry, hurt, worried, vulnerable? What are your last thoughts before going to sleep?

If you had one message you could give people who live better lives than you do, what would you say to them?

Close your meditation with the following prayer, or one of your own.


Holy One, your love unites all of us who live on this planet. We are truly brothers and sisters, joined in spirit through your abiding presence. Gather to your heart all the people who live in situations similar to the person I momentarily became. Enfold all those on the edge of society in your heart of compassion. Guide me to find and enter into actions that will help relieve the burdens of those who are oppressed. Thank you for the immensity of your love.

As an extension of this meditation, at the close you might have the person whose life you entered write a letter to you about his or her situation. (50-53)

Joyce Rupp in Prayer of Boundless Compassion