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.