Why Do I Have So Much While They Have So Little?
I remember the most malnourished children I’ve ever seen. I was 19 years old in Zimbabwe somewhere between Victoria Falls and Bulaweyo, the second largest city in the country. Our bus had broken down so we were hanging out with the natives on the side of the road, as you do, as someone repaired it. Most of the kids we met there weren’t wearing shoes (Zimbabwean kids don’t like shoes) but they had clothes and looked relatively healthy and energetic until two small kids, one girl and one boy, arrived. They were acting odd, almost crazy. Their hair was reddish colored, clothes barely held together, and stomachs protruding. It took me a minute but after observing I realized these kids weren’t acting a little crazy because they were ADHD. They were acting crazy because they were starving.
After playing with them for a little bit, our group leaders started serving our lunch on the broken down bus. I couldn’t eat. I was wallowing in guilt and confusion over what I had just witnessed in those small children. I kept asking God why I had so much when they had so little. God did not seem fair or loving in that moment. In fact, during that entire monthlong mission trip, God felt very distant. Probably because I kept pushing Him aside, so upset that He had allowed the suffering I witnessed in Zimbabwe and South Africa, where we also traveled.
I now realize how unproductive my response of not eating lunch had been that day. Though I was focusing on the poor and needy around me, I was also very self-focused, allowing guilt to be my dominant emotion. My parents had warned me against this feeling before. Growing up in a mission-minded church, I had opportunities o’plenty to do out of country mission trips. After these trips, I would come home and cry to my parents about the fact we have a.c. and walk-in closets and indoor plumbing. Before I could threaten to move into the backyard and live like the community I had just spent a week or so with, my parents would intervene with the wisdom of long-term missionaries: guilt is not a feeling from the Lord and, therefore, feeling guilty is not the purpose of those trips. Instead, turn the guilt into a desire to do something about people’s dire circumstances.
Stats like 925 million people are hungry in the world today can make us feel really bad about our full refrigerators. But get over it. Why do we have so much and they don’t? I don’t know; we just do. So let’s make use of our resources.
Just got a letter & pic from my World Vision Zimbabwean girl. She is happy & fed & has a school uniform. So, adopt a child, everyone, thru world vision or compassion. $32 a month goes a long way.
Thx, sweetie, for reminding me of such need in our world. Let’s get mad & let’s get busy. Anything that kills, steals & destroys originates w/ Satan.
I know God’s heart breaks over the injustice too.
I read once that charity is when you give out of what you have in excess and justice is when you reassess what you really need, and realign your priorities. The exact quotation: “… charity, as we have been practising it, is satisfying all our desires and then passing on some of what is left over; justice requires adjusting our desires to the needs of others, so that there is a planetary sharing of what all have a right to” (Douglas Roche, 1976, Justice Not Charity, p. 120). That quotation has affected me profoundly and I’m currently contemplating it in the context of the famine ravaging Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/07/25/united-nations-drought.html). I’m not displeased with the Canadian government’s commitment (but always prefer to see my tax dollars going to foreign aid and domestic social programs over military spending, so I’d be in favour of a greater-than-$50M commitment), but now must decide what I can do.
Good hard question (sad hard question).
When I returned from my first mission trip (to Sudan), I felt the exact same way you did. I remember looking around my house and all I could say was, “we have too much. we just have too much.” As with most things, the feeling passed. And then I went to India, and it all came back. Every now and then I get the urge to go on a mission trip…but its for all the wrong reasons. I just feel the need to “feel the need”, if you know what I mean.Good post!
I missed this post because, ironically, I was on a mission trip to China. I remember the feeling of guilt and sadness from my first international trip. Those Guatemalan children had very little compared to me. They had Barbies missing eyes and arms, one light blanket, bland food… But they had one thing I did not: joy. They found joy in their one eyeless Barbie. They ate their beans with smiles while I made pb&j for myself. They giggled, laughed, and smiled more than we did. They too are God’s children. He loves them. And boy do they love Him. They find their joy in Him not in material things like perfect Barbies or delicious meals. We have so much to learn.
[…] remember a moment when I was in Zimbabwe and we were sitting around in a circle eating lunch, I think, while working at an orphanage. All […]