This picture has haunts me. Before 2004 (when I spent some time in Honduras working with orphans and feeding centers in the slums), it probably wouldn’t have affected me as much. Seeing poverty—the kind that makes a woman walk away from her 1 year old baby, never to return, so that he can have food to eat—will change your perspective. Seeing people live in cardboard-and-blue-tarp tents in highway medians will change your perspective. Seeing crib after crib after crib lined up, with small children starved for food and attention will change your perspective. Seeing your own child in the poverty of a Chinese orphanage will change your perspective. And with changed perspective comes changed ways of living.
We’ve never been huge Christmas gift givers. It’s always been a ‘3 gift’ thing here: a toy or book, an article of clothing, and something either needed or wanted (depending on the circumstances). Stockings are typically filled with fun treats but minimal as well: an orange, some gum, a toothbrush, a small treat like double-stick tape or band-aids, and a box of favorite cold cereal. Our children don’t really NEED anything. As we have had to redefine necessity here, our children, who have had the privilege of seeing poverty and its effects up close and personal, have also shifted their priorities.
This year, I’ve been re-thinking. Again. Last night at small group we had a conversation about the things that make us ‘angry’. Not things like being cut off in traffic, although that sure makes us angry. :) Instead, we were talking about things like homelessness and orphans and foster parents who don’t provide for their foster kids but are only in it for the money. We talked about how ineffective it can feel to be just one small contributor to solving the problems. But we also talked about how important each person is, each contribution is. Only as a team can we make a difference! We started exploring ways we can make a difference. And we talked about priorities. How to adjust. WHERE to adjust. How it will affect our children. Why it’s important.
It was a good discussion. As I look at our tree, I know that we’re making progress. We still have a long ways to go, perhaps, but our priorities are getting better. Seeing our grown and nearly grown children ‘get’ this is amazing. They are wise beyond their years sometimes. But seeing how 98%+ of the world lives will do that to you. They are fortunate—they’ve witnessed it. And the difference that getting involved can make. This year we’ve cut back again. Next year? We’ll take it another step. What will that look like? I’m not sure…but we’ve got a year to figure out how to make a small difference in the things that make us ‘angry’. That’s a start. Our time and money and energy at Christmas may go that direction. We’ll see.
Getting real with one another…just in time for Christmas. Gives hope for the new year!
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.