From Dorothy Day's journal The Duty of Delight:
Every one must go through something analogous to a conversion -- conversion to an idea, a thought, a desire, a dream, a vision -- without vision the people perish. In my teens I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jack London's The Road, and became converted to the poor, to a love for and desire to be always with the poor and the suffering -- the workers of the world. I was converted to the idea of the Messianic mission of the proletariat. Ten years later I was converted to Christ because I found him in the people, though hidden.In the people, not in the masses. The pope has pointed out in his Christmas message this year '44 the distinction between the masses and the people and these words called down the wrath of Stalin. The masses, insensate, unthinking, moved by propaganda, by unscrupulous rulers, by Stalins and Hitlers, are quite a different thing from the people, temples of the Holy Ghost, made to the image and likeness of God.
Both conversions are important. I see as one of my primary missions to convert my ninth graders in my scripture class to the poor, to God's love for the poor. And to Christ in the poor. They are inseparable. If I can achieve these two conversions, I will feel my teaching has been a success.
Day also points to the ability of books to convert, to change minds, to plant an idea. I realize that these kids no longer read, and that saddens me tremendously. I don't know where I would be without The Brothers Karamazov in high school, The Lord of the Rings and other great books.
I'm currently reading a short story in three of my classes to prepare them for the New Testament. I can already that many of these kids were never read to as kids as I was. They hardly knew at the beginning what to do, how to listen, how to follow a story. Gradually they figured it out and got into it. But their ears are out of tune. How will they pray if their ears are so out of tune? Their eyes are over strained, and their ears out of tune. Such is the situation of our kids.
But even more important than a book is a poor person. For a long time we have spoken of philosophy as a prolegomena fidei. But the poor should be named first. They are the best prolegomena. They are the ladder that brings us closest to the leap that we must all take: closer than art, music and beauty; closer than books and ideas; closer than anything else. For they are persons, imaging within themselves the kenosis most clearly. They must be studied. They must come to our classrooms and we must lead our classes to them.
Nathan O'Halloran, SJ