I have written about this before. But this is something that follows me, in my sleep, when I wake up in the morning or when I go shopping for groceries.
Faces filled with broken laughter. Parched hands and rough feet. Growling stomachs and children lost in the silence of poverty.
These are the faces of brokenness, heartbreak and sorrow. I can’t hide from them, as much as I can’t hide from my children asking for a cold drink of water.
They live with me and their sorrow has become my sorrow. I can’t pretend not to hear about them or see their needs as I flip through the pages of the news paper.
Yet, it is easy to shut ones eyes and focus on planning for another tomorrow.
Oh the weight of our own entrapment, how it keeps us from the reality of this broken world.
“Mommy, can you help me with this project? Mommieeeeee, I need your help now plaeassseeeeeee.”
My thought pattern is suddenly broken by the loud calls from my son. But that pushes me into an even deeper contemplation.
I ask myself the question: “How will I help my son with this project.”
His wish is that I take over and complete it for him. As always mom and dad can fix any mess and make any project look like the best one in the class. So the kid wins an award, gets excited and spills the beans to his friends that mom and dad did most of the project for him; and then there is that not so pleasant note from the teacher. If you are a parent you have probably been there before.
But alas, my mind wonders back to parched hands and rough feet. The idea of sending my money oversees to help some desperate soul suddenly clashes with the thought of aiding my son with his project.
My thoughts take me back to when I was a child and my father started a school for some indigenous children living in the rural areas of Ecuador. The school boasted age appropriate classes along with a few hours of outdoor work which included, recycling, composting, planting, harvesting and some basic carpentry.
My father’s idea was that if he was going to transform the lives of these little children and their families; he had to start with the smallest members of the family and then work with the parents on an ongoing basis.
He explained that if he could guarantee them a good education similar or better to what the private schools offered, these children would have a chance in succeeding.
Education was just one part of my father’s vision. He believed that the children needed to be taught to fear God and respect all that God had created to bless them. He also believed that if he taught them to use the resources around them they would have a constant income to support the needs of their family.
“Mom, are you going to help me with this, I can’t figure out what I am suppose to do. Can you do it for me?
Again, I pause to tell my son I’ll be right there and I return to the blinking line on the screen.
There is so much to say, so much to ponder on the topic of poverty. So many hungry faces walking miles and miles in scorching heat to hopefully wet their lips with a few drops of water. And yet the question still remains.
“How am I going to help?” I know that sending my money to the first person who expresses a need may not be a wise choice. In the same way, doing the project for my son will only do him a disservice and teach him to depend on my skill for future assignments.
But I must help in some way. I can’t turn around and erase the faces that crowd the hallways of my heart. There is no back road to take, no left turn. The road keeps on for miles and I am stuck on it, partly by divine assignment and by my own passion to see a changed world.
I also can’t ignore my son’s pleas for help. In his frustration he says that he is giving up. “This is too hard, too much work and I’m tired”
And so the lesson is taught and the teacher understands with undeniable clarity that if a child needs help, one must help them by providing the resources they need to complete the task while offering wise council. But one must never do the work for them.
Repeatedly doing the work for the child creates a lazy, irresponsible and cranky member of society.
But what about the poor? Those children and their families that have nothing to call their own. No shelter from the vicious wind and penetrating rays of sunlight.
What about their needs. How are we called to help?
I believe that we help by first allowing their sorrow to become our sorrow. Their need, our need. Their sadness our sadness and their joy our joy.
Once we are one with their plight, they no longer become distant faces that we walk past or people that we place in the back of our minds. They become living beings that breathe and have need for the living water, both spiritually and physically.
The bible teaches that we are called to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty and clothe the naked. This is our initial response and it must be the responsibility of every Christian.
However it’s important to remember that what we do after the initial response is just as crucial if not more important.
Let us when possible teach while providing, so that in our effort to clothe, feed and offer shelter we enable an environment of spiritual and physical growth where loaves and fish are multiplied by the hand of God and the working feet of man.
Lots of Love – Mariana