The intersection of my want and another’s need
Sometimes at dinnertime when I’m pulling out my worn stack of Corelle plates, the same ones I’ve been using for 15 years, I imagine buying new dishes. Something square and sleek and Asian-influenced, perhaps. Like this. Or maybe this?
I look at prices and remember I’d need at least enough to serve 16. I don’t have cupboard space for two sets of dishes. Yet getting rid of a perfectly decent set of dishes sounds wasteful. Which train of thought starts me imagining new cabinets, and a new kitchen floor. And, oh, as long as I’m dreaming of a remodel, how about an industrial range? And suddenly in my head I’m lusting after a $30,000 kitchen remodel instead of a $300 stack of plates.
About the time I start getting all revved up over the new kitchen idea, I happen to watch the news for the first time in weeks, and hear the staggering quote that a million kids a year die of malaria in Africa. Malaria. An entirely treatable disease. Killing a million kids a year in Africa alone.
That same evening I spend an hour chatting on facebook with my sister in Ethiopia. Talk turns to malaria again, along with all sorts of other ailments that Sophie treats every day. Polio. Mossy foot. Other ailments so ancient that Sophie’s been hunting 1930’s medical textbooks online, seeking lost wisdom about illnesses that modern Western doctors have never seen.
She tells me that some days she literally doesn’t know what to do next, she’s looking at so many people in need all at once.
“Do what’s in front of you, ” I tell her simply.
Clarity is always easier when advising others.
The next day I open an email from Shaun Groves, offering me free tickets to go see Hillsong’s new documentary The I-Heart Revolution. I’ve practically worn out two Hillsong CD’s, so I give him a quick and emphatic yes. I don’t know what the documentary is about, but if there’s Hillsong music, I’m there. (If you live in Australia or Asia, your date to see this movie is Nov. 18th, by the way)
Two evenings later I was there, traveling via film with Hillsong to some of the poorest areas in the world, listening to person after person spell out the dilemma that is continually in my mind: how much impact can I have on my world? Can my life make a difference?
In the middle of that movie, while watching a man offering gracious hospitality in the doorway of his 5 by 6 foot shack, my longing for new dishes and new floors in my comfortable home seemed as stupid and frivolous as socks on a turkey.
Walking out of the theater I clutched that feeling tight to my heart, knowing that in that moment my heart was aligned a little more closely with the heart of God, and wanting desperately for it to stay that way.
I’ve had that clarity before when coming home from travels, after seeing poverty in Ethiopia and in the Dominican Republic. Seeing the faces myself feels different, somehow. It makes me more ready to act, even if acting might take me beyond my comfort zone. Even if it means I miss out on bits of puffery here and there.
The trick is to remember the faces, and to not get confused by the puffery.
May God grant that clarity each time I open my wallet.
Right now a group of bloggers is in El Salvador, experiencing the work of Compassion International in that country. If you are longing to make an impact in this crazy mixed-up world of ours, would you considersponsoring a child?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
This is from one of the blogs I've been reading lately, and it speaks to something I've been struggling with.