In the Key of Human Dignity.
During the Pope’s speech to Business people and workers the Pope spoke about their responsibility to create working environments that are “worthy and useful to society, especially for the young.” Its opposite was described by pope Francis with the image of a petri dish where bacteria slowly grows. The petri dish of lack of education, and lack of work opportunities, which lead to poverty and marginalization is the place where the bacteria of violence and drug crimes grows. He said that “God will hold accountable our modern-day slave holders.” He warned them not to get “lost in the seductive seas of ambition.” This was not your warm and cozy, lovey-dovey, Pope Francis. Yet, he delivered those words with loads of hope, helping people imagine how to move forward.
He proposed communication, even healthy confrontation, as well as for people to commit themselves to the idea that they need to lose in some areas in order for everyone to win in the long run. He proposed that work should be serving human beings, and not the other way around, which is what Catholic Social Teaching is all about. Business needs to lose some profit in order to “invest in people,” he said.
Two friends of mine and my family, who are committed Christians and were both volunteers at the Pope’s visit, come to mind as people creating cradles of hope. They are tremendous sources of inspiration in living out what the Pope spoke about. After reflecting on what the Pope said to business people I thought I’d include their stories here:
- My friend David Blancas is in the center of both pictures above. The picture to the right is of me, David, and my brother Luis, from right to left, the evening after the Pope’s visit. The picture on the left is of the opening for their first housing development for low-income people. My middle brother is on the far right of that picture. David is a housing developer , who is shaking things up when making housing for the poor. The poorest housing available now can seem pretty expensive. His competition sells houses without doors, without a wall to separate them from the next house; without parks. These are costs they save, and pass on to their poor clients. My friend David believes that “added value” like parks with gazebos, grills, and a structure to hang a piñata, not only helps people flourish, but makes his company more competitive. Their houses are an invitation to develop their family lives and play with their children. Not to mention that they include doors, light bulbs, separating fences, and all the rest. “People choose the company that cares for them; people notice. We take a hit in certain industry markers, but we put people first, and that’s what makes us much stronger than our competitors.”
- Another example is a friend of my father and mine, Arturo Adame, who runs a Maquiladora. He’s wearing a black coat, sitting to the right of my dad in this picture. They are both holding their volunteer tags at the Pope’s event, where they served as part of the 100,000 volunteer force. Arturo also believes that his faith should inspire his work. He says that they have a budget under which they have to operate. He says he can’t give people the salaries he wishes. However, “I’ll give them as much as I can within the constraints placed on me. I give every single employee the opportunity to get the next level of education they need. I make sure we have healthy and tasty food in our plant: restaurant level. If I don’t absolutely love eating with them, I don’t serve it. I won’t offer mid-night shifts. I just don’t think it’s good for families. I actually measure our employee’s satisfaction on the regular basis as much as I measure our client’s satisfaction. I see myself as serving both.” These are the kind of hope-filled people the Pope hopes to animate.
These are just two of my friends who make me think that there’s lots of hope for the future of Juarez. These are the type of people that are constructing brighter opportunities for the city. These are the people the pope comes to affirm, while many of their competitors go with an “all profit, no social responsibility” motto. They both believe that Francis’ message might activate some business people who have been on the fence about some of these issues.
“We’re all in the same ship” the pope said. “Work should be a space for humanization and building a bright future.” May we see more people like David and Arturo in Ciudad Juarez. I thank God for the hope they represent for me and for the city.