Wednesday, October 26, 2011
When Princess was six months old, I attended a Women of Faith conference on an anonymous donor's dime. I'd signed up to go not knowing how I would pay for it since we hadn't had an income for a full year. When it came time to pay for it, I was told someone had not only paid for my admission, they'd also sprung for the box lunch.
I worried what people would think that I was eating that $10 lunch when it was well known around my circle that we couldn't afford....well....anything.
And then they did their World Vision sponsorship push that they do. And God said, "Go." So, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. And look the long way. And stood ten feet away from the table. When I finally mosied my way close enough to the table covered in children's pictures, there she was.
I refused to pick her up. I chit-chatted with the lady who was saying things like, "You usually know right away who it is. Blah, blah, blah." And I was saying things like, "Yeah, no income for a year. No way. Just thought I'd check it out."
Took the long way round.
She was still there. And God said, "Jamie, you need to know someone has it worse off than you."
Jamie: Roof over her head. Haven't missed a meal. Has a back-up plan if evicted. Loving husband. Great kids. Exhausted, yes. Broke, yes. Blessed, yes.
Almnesh: too thin, carries water, can't afford school, yup, she wins.
So I went home and told my husband, with hanging head. And HE said, "Well, I won't argue with God."
We've sponsored Almnesh for ten years now. And it started when we had no idea HOW we would find the money to do so. I was worried that whoever paid for me to be at WoF would see me signing up to sponsor a child and think, "Well, sheesh, she's not as bad off as I thought." I was afraid of what my parents would say if they found out. I feared what Brent's parents would say if they found out. I feared anyone knowing. It was a terrifying act of obedience.
The next month we received the first paycheck we'd seen in 13 months. We spent the next I don't even know how long, clawing and scratching and digging ourselves out of $25,000 of credit card debt we'd racked up in the preceding year. More babies came. Hard times came and went and we paid those off, too.
And now I find myself on the flip side. We have reached a level of comfort that feels incredibly.....uncomfortable.
I am completely undone.
I find that my thoughts are consumed with ending poverty and injustice. I'm constantly sharing stuff on Facebook and here on my blog about places to give and things to do and books to read. I spend too much time on blogs of people serving selflessly. I'm reading Mother Teresa and Katie Davis. And my heart cries, "Not enough. We aren't doing enough."
And I worry what people think. I'm afraid that someone will see me in the park with my Kindle (an unasked for gift) and judge me for the post I made earlier in the day regarding "necessity." And I'm afraid of what people will say when they see me eating at the local Mexican restaurant after I've made a comment about starving children. And I'm afraid of what people think when they see me snap at one of my children right after I tell them I'm adopting another.
And yet, I find myself angry with people for not getting it. For not seeing how good we ALL have it.
And I picture them thinking about me Yeah, you're one to talk. You have something to give away. I've seen your house.
And they are right. And I'm unhinged. I'm sick of the extravagance. Because I can hold bead parties (and will) and I can sell goods crafted by women in vocational training (and will) and I can sponsor children and I can give to my church and I can adopt a child (and get all sorts of wild accolades about my selflessness) and I can donate to the local food bank and I can volunteer at the meat cannery and I can boycott stinking Hershey for their child labor practices (and Pepsi for their fetal testing--knife to the heart--fire your PR guy) and it's NOT ENOUGH.
Because there are still children going to bed tonight that won't wake up tomorrow. Malaria is still rampant when all it takes to slow it down is a $18 mosquito net. Women are still selling themselves to feed their children and ending up with AIDS so they leave them as orphans anyway.
Oh Dear God when will we wake up and see that this life we have in America is so crazy extravagant and DO SOMETHING so that babies don't have to starve and their mothers have no choice but to let them be raised by strangers or watch them die?
A dear woman in my life gave me a t-shirt the other day that says "ordinary hero." She gave it to me with the sentence, "I'm not doing anything heroic." And the unsaid sentence was, "Like you." Which is bogus. I think I know her heart well enough to believe that she IS an ordinary hero. And I'm still sane enough to believe that adopting one child only makes me a hero in the eyes of people who can't fathom it. But what no one seems to understand is that the thing that would make me a hero today is if I could find a way for her to stay with her mother. If I could turn back time and get her daddy the medicines that would keep him alive and providing for them. If I could come up with a crop that would withstand drought.
I'm hoping ripples count for something.
And as I've said a lot lately, I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. But I'm stinking tired of not speaking up because I'm afraid of what people are thinking. If I can convince the people around me to be an ordinary hero: sponsor a child, donate to the food bank, volunteer, serve, love, give....if I can do that, maybe I can deserve the title on my tee. And until that time, I'll still wear it because it says, "I heart Africa." And my daughter is there.
And if you want to be a hero for me today, I have a letter I need LOTS of people to send to their respective congressmen about the hostage situation that is happening in Ethiopia with our babies. Email me and I'll get a sample to you. (But this is NOT why I wrote this blog post. This happened in the last few minutes.)