I suppose this post was a long time in the making. I’ve always been sceptical of the short term missionary or volunteer who goes abroad for a couple weeks or even a couple months and comes home to our instantaneously gratified society. Most become temporarily disgusted with their own materialism and then go on a rampage of throwing out clothing and living on V boutique finds and buying fair trade everything. Give them a few weeks or months even and eventually most return to our comfortable and fortunate lives. I don’t doubt that these feelings and sentiments are genuine and I don’t think that these people are faking it but… Even while I’ve lived here in the developing world, I find myself immune for lack of a better word to that kind of infatuation or phase of intense compassion and do goodness. It’s not that I don’t feel for people or that I’m not sympathetic but I’m a realist. Is me throwing out things or boycotting the omnipresent “Made In China” really doing anything (sometimes it does help)? How can I sincerely and effectively help people and not just satisfy my own need to be “good”? It’s like when people comment “there are starving kids in *insert third world nation here*” when you can’t finish your plate. Does that actually help anyone?
Somehow, even living here I think my everyday life has been fairly sheltered from some of the intense sadness, poverty and desperation that I’ve seen before. Occasionally there are moments that remind me of where I am; like last week I was driving down a road I frequent a lot only to see a barefoot boy of maybe 10 holding a plastic bottle with a honey-coloured substance between his teeth when my friend told me, “He’s sniffing glue.” What a reminder of the escapism and coping mechanisms that are used when there seems to be no hope at all. In the last few weeks, I’ve had several conversations or seen videos just inspiring me and I remember that there are people in this world who are hurting and hopeless.
One was this viral video of Emma Watson’s speech on equal rights at the UN and the source of my post title. A sweet, sweet girl said to me a few weeks ago that she heard a great quote that went something like this. Most people spend more time thinking about changing the world then actually changing it. So when I watched this video I was so moved by this portion of it, when she questions her own credibility to stand in front of the UN as “the Harry Potter girl” but realizes why not? What’s stopping her from being the one to stand up and do something?
Someone shared on my Facebook this video of Francis Chan. The title was something like what this couple did for their 20th anniversary was crazy or awesome and as I sat down to watch I realized what they did was so close to home for me here. So I’m sitting at my desk crying (PJ can vouch) as I see these people on the screen in East Africa and I’m thinking, “I’m in East Africa!” and I help people do stuff like this but part of me can’t help but think I’m not the one doing it though.
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another. – Charles Dickens
Wherever your heart is, whether it’s impoverished children in Africa (I hate to use the stereotype and generalization but the fact is there are a lot of needy children across this beautiful and vast continent), refugees in Eastern Europe, prostitutes in South East Asia, the homeless man on East Hastings or someone in your church, school or work. People, wherever they are and wherever they’re going basically just want acknowledgement. For someone to say, “You are worth it.” For their existence to mean something and to be worth something. We’re commanded over and over again to love our neighbours as ourselves, to sell our possessions and help the poor, that it’s greater to give than to receive. My prayer is that these might not be trite sayings but let us manifest these in tangible ways to help our neighbour.
Now I’m not saying that everyone needs to go live in the third world but I do challenge you to stop and think, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever you believe, about how you might be able to do something, even a little something to help someone out.
*Side bar: I know short term worker photos get a bad rap. It’s hard not to be just one of those people who takes photos and gets a good profile picture and wants the world to know how altruistic and great you are (Matthew 6:1-4). But the kids love being in the photos and I do want to show people that this is part of my life.*