Yesterday, one of my favorite neighbors, a cheeky five-year old girl, looked up from the book she was reading in my front room and whispered a secret.
She told me that her heavily pregnant mother lost all her money gambling the night before. As a result, her mother had to sell the baby clothes she had collected for the new arrival. A sad story for a five-year old to recount, especially about her own mother.
After telling me this secret, she went back to her book, happy and oblivious to the economic turmoil within her family. Resilience.
She might not have known that food would be scarce that day. But I knew.
And I had seen it too often - either this little girl or her younger sister begging for food, hungry and pleading. Their tiny frames undernourished, faces slightly gaunt from lack of nutrition. Still these faces light up with bright, cheeky smiles even as they ask me for a piece of bread or a spare carrot.
Sometimes folks ask me why I have spent so much of my adult life living among impoverished folks like this little girl and her family. Why establish a home and raise our own children in these places of brokenness and injustice? Why not live where we could easily live - comfortably and happily in the midst of the affluence (and isolation from the poor) we could easily attain thanks to our privilege?
I can only answer for my own life choices. I do not expect anyone else to make the same decisions. But I know that for me, what my eyes do not see, my heart cannot grieve over. And I want my heart to be broken by the things that break God's heart.
Simply put, I need to be immersed in the lives of my marginalized friends in order to care. It's like some sort of Empathy Deficiency that I carry around in my DNA. Out of sight out of mind is my own reality.
These daily experiences inform and fuel the vocation God has called me to pursue - the work of Alongsiders to reach those who walk alone - that is vulnerable children all over the world. The daily struggles of my neighbors give me passion and energy to toil for change. Until their lives are different... until each child has enough love and encouragement and food on the table... until my neighbors have access to what my children have access to... I must keep going.
Even, when I am frustrated, tired or just discouraged. Their stories keep me going.
So, where do you find fuel for the journey? Or is your heart and passion waning? Perhaps the answer is a time of immersion, a time of allowing God to open your eyes to see, and your heart to grieve.
In Mark 8:25 Jesus laid hands on a blind man's eyes; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
This is my prayer for you.