We'd go to some of the poorest parts of Mexico; places where indoor plumbing and electricity were unheard of, places where the roads were nearly impossible to navigate, where there was very little access to medical care if needed, places where all sorts of human and animal smells scorched under the Mexican sun and wafted into the air like a putrid perfume.
The people there lived in poverty and often times in hopelessness. But we weren't there as missionaries although we did bring the word of God. We were there as family. This was where my dad's family lived, in the middle of that dusty old town, each of his many siblings spread out, living in their own tiny, dirt houses. We'd often bring food, clothes and money. We didn't have much but despite being poor by American standards, we were practically millionaires compared to what his family endured in Mexico.
We weren't blind to the poverty. It was hard to ignore. But it was different being submersed in it, sharing blood with it. The biggest difference was that even though I watched my cousins run around in torn, dirty clothes, many times without shoes, I never once felt sorry for them.
That was because there was no them and me. It was us...WE. We ran down the street together in our naked feet, the sweat running down our faces and caking mud into our pores. We played ball in my grandma's courtyard. We tormented her donkey. We played jokes on each other when one of us were in the outhouse. Our mothers bathed us together in large metal tubs filled with river water that was warmed over a fire.
It's impossible to feel pity when all you feel is love.
I felt this way again today when Food For the Hungry posted a story about Ethiopia. It's a reminder that we are all called to love the poor.
As I looked at the beautiful faces of those children, I had no sense of pity. That's because I've been there. I've walked on their soil, I've held their hands and kissed their beautiful faces. I made it personal by being there and by sponsoring two children of my own. And just like my cousins in Mexico, there is no them and me anymore. It's now us, in it together.
When I came home from Ethiopia someone asked me when I was going to "get back to my life." They asked me this because I couldn't stop talking about the trip, about the people, about the need. I likened it to when the news reports that a child has been abducted. News like this usually pains the heart and we might even send up a prayer for the family. We ask God to help them. But then we get on with our lives and forget.
But what if it was your child? Would you be able to forget them? What if it were your friend's child? Your brother's child? Would you be able to walk away? I doubt it.
That's the difference! When you make a connection with a child around the world who is suffering they no longer become forgettable. They are now your child! And you don't tell their stories for shock value or to garner pity. You tell them for one simple reason: you love them. You care about them and you want others to care about them as well.
It's time we stop looking at the suffering of the world with pity and look at it with love. Pity shuts us down, it leaves us unsure of how to act or what to do. It leaves us with doubts and fears and paralyzes us. But love, well...love it a powerful thing. It can move mountains. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
So the question is, will you choose to love a child today?