No one said it would be this hard. The re-entry. Attempting to reconcile what I’ve seen with how I live. Sure, missionaries who’ve spent months or years in a faraway land deal with this stuff, but the 7-day crew? Ours was a whirlwind trip. We barely had a chance to let it all sink in before we were back in our beds.
So what do we do now? Practice more gratitude? Yes. Meeting people who live with nothing makes me more thankful for everything. Hugging sweet smelly kids in tattered clothing makes me grateful for the closet full of clothes my kids have. Walking into the dark 8×8 room that a family lives in makes me thankful for my not-so-small-anymore house.
Being grateful for what I have is an acknowledgement that I have more than others.
Being thankful for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the house we live in, especially after seeing the inescapable poverty in Ethiopia, opens my eyes to the fact that others are suffering while we are comfortable.
This gratitude, this opening of the eyes, means that I am no longer ignorant. There is nowhere to run. I am now responsible. One of the things that struck me the hardest while in Ethiopia was just how much we are all the same. My kids laugh and play in clean clothes with full tummies. Ethiopian kids laugh and play in tattered and stained clothes with nearly empty tummies. The only difference is where they happened to be born.
So what to do with this responsibility? Feel guilty? No. That’s not helpful. Instead, responsibility should lead to a more purposeful life. Living with arms wide open. Open to receive, and open to give. As we are blessed, so we should bless others. As we have plenty, so we should share with those who have little.
There seem to be two temptations when faced with the stories of those we’ve seen over the last week. 1. Turn away and ignore, hoping they will go away -OR- 2. Become over-eager and try to do too much, hurting those you are seeking to help. Instead, let us work on daily living a more purposeful life. Give what you have, do what you can, love those around you.
Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.
Acknowledge the responsibility that comes with gratitude. Then go out and live a purposeful life.
I will fall, I will fail, but I will do my best to do the same.