Saturday, December 1, 2007

Something We Can Never Understand

I will now write a small reflection on a story I read today in The Daily Star English language newspaper in Bangladesh. For the full story visit, The story entitled, "Slum dwellers also come in aid of Sidr victims", really touched my heart and brought to mind some tough questions.

The story details a slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh, who have collected a truckful of clothes and other items to aid victims of cyclone Sidr in Southern Bangladesh. What a powerful message! It reminds me of the story in Luke 21:1-4, where Jesus speaks so favourably of the woman giving all she has to the Lord. What has happened to us? Those of us, wealthy beyond the imaginations of the slum dwellers in Karail slum, yet what do we do with that wealth? Could I, the student that I am, give anywhere near what these poor families are giving? Could I ever give to the poor in the way that these poor have done?

The concept of giving from your excess is common, and most people do this in some form or another. But the concept of giving from what you lack, giving something from the figurative nothing, this is the amazing story of the slum dwellers of Karail. The people living in this slum live in terrible conditions. They live in conditions unimaginable in affluent Canada, yet they gave what they had, what they may very well need in the future, they gave those things to help others who now have even less than they do.

In reflecting on this amazing display of love and care, I will draw our attention to this quote, "We are poor, but the cyclone-hit people are poorer now. They have nothing, no home, clothes or food to eat. We poor people can realise how painful it can be to be in a situation like that". Now what does that say about us? The distant, aloof, affluent group living in large houses, driving large cars, entirely oblivious to these instances of amazing self-sacrifice. It says that we cannot understand, it is not possible for us to understand what it means to be poor. I can live simply, but I don't know what it means to live in poverty, and I likely never will. That is not, however, a justification for not following in this powerful example. When all your wordly possessions fit in a house the size of most North American garden sheds, and you still choose to give to those who have even less than you do. That is radical, that is love for your neighbour at its best, that is an example of what those of us who have more, should be challenged to do.

This story proves a challenge for me, a challenge to bring the gift of love and empowerment to the poorest in society, and to realize that I can give even when I don't think I have enough to live comfortably. I challenge myself, and you, to think about the poor when you desire something new. Because until you try to understand the poor, and live like the poor, you will never be able to give like the poor.

In Peace and Seeking Justice.

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