Too often these days I don’t understand.
Three months ago I sat on a folding chair outside of a mud hut just north of Colombo, Sri Lanka. A small child played on a straw mat, and, inside, the family’s cupboards were empty, save a few cups of rice.
The day before that we ate lunch with the community. We used our hands to scoop up the curried potatoes from plates balanced precariously on our legs. Later we drove past thatched huts housing people who have to walk far for water and hope the rain will be sufficient for their crops.
We met people who live from this day to the next. As in, How will I eat today?
Then, this past Thursday, my family and I joined hands in a circle around a table, a feast. My father-in-law asked me to pray over the food, and it was an honor, to give thanks, to voice my gratefulness.
Turkey and stuffing and potatoes topped with pecans and marshmallows. Thick slices of ham beside cranberry sauce. Sodas that serve my body no earthly good but as pleasure. Desserts that provide nothing but a sugar rush.
I don’t remember feeling so torn. Seeing poverty in Sri Lanka changed me, but not in ways that I expected. Standing around that table with my family on Thursday, I felt full to the brim with both satisfaction and something like desperate disappointment.
* * * * *
The news shows people lined up to buy more stuff, and people protesting the idea of working on a holiday, and people lined up outside a homeless shelter. And I’m not sure what to do in the face of that kind of excess, that kind of lack.
I know enough to be thankful for what I have. For what we have. And I feel a new weight of responsibility, not to shout out in protest against it (I wrote that post already and then deleted it because it didn’t seem quite right). I don’t want to lay heavy burdens of guilt on my friends for being so blessed. So I simply shout as loud as I can:
Remember that not everyone has a job to walk away from.
Not everyone has the luxury of protest-via-buying-or-not-buying-chicken-sandwiches.
Remember that not everyone has what we have.
Remember to share some of what you have with someone else.
10 Replies to “When Shouting “Remember!” is All I Know to Do”
Some call this “mindfulness”
What an awesome post. We had a big feast at work for Thanksgiving and as the ladies were throwing away food that wasn’t eaten, I felt horrible thinking of all the food that we Americans eat and waste without even thinking how fortunate we are. It saddens me that there are rules put in place which restrict restaurants, schools , and other food services from giving the left overs to the poor and so we just throw all of the food away. I had a thought the other day that even the poor in America have it made, compared to the people in other countries that are living the way you described, such as the families in Sri Lanka. If only I could afford to travel and help those in need over seas. Until then I will try and be as thankful as I can and help those in need here at home.
Such a great reminder. It is hard to know the balance between not trying to make people feel guilty and also trying to help them see how insanely blessed we all are and often take it for granted. I think it starts in posts like this. Continuing to remind ourselves that we are blessed and helping others see how blessed they are through our stories.
There is grace required to balance the joy of abundant blessing with the pain of knowing those who are not blessed in the same manner. Jesus turned his world upside down, crushing those perceptions of the blessed rich and cursed poor when looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20). That consolation, that the poor get God’s kingdom helps, though I am not certain what it means. I remember seeing the shacks in Ghana, listening as the hotel staff told me they were paid less than a dollar a day while I slept in a room which cost a year’s worth of their wages for one night’s accommodation. I felt ashamed and desperate at the gross disparity. Thanks Shawn for posting the agony of this contrast. Thankfulness and a willingness to help, one opportunity at a time is my solution to being comfortable when two-thirds of the world only eat a small meal once a day, if that. The grace comes when we give Him the pain of our own limitations to make a great difference and trust Him with our small impact instead.
Remembering is a sort of communion, isn’t it Shawn?
Amen, Shawn. Amen.
I’ve been wrestling with this myself, trying to figure out what I can do about slavery, exploitation and poverty in our world, and all I can think of is Andy Stanley saying “Do for one what you wish you could do for all”. So I’ve asked God to give me a One.
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