I’m [relatively] safe and sound at home, 8,000 miles from Sri Lanka, today. The time change has been rough, compounded by the 33 hours of travel to get home. My body keeps telling me to stop pulling all-nighters. It begins to shut down mid-afternoon in protest of the total routine inversion I’ve inflicted on it twice in two weeks. I can barely focus my eyes, my thoughts plod slowly except when they snap at childishness. I fall asleep during bedtime prayers, propped up in the elbow between the wall and the boy’s dresser.
I repeat Matthew’s advice constantly. “Go easy on them. They didn’t have this experience.” But I’m angry when one child grumbles about picking up toys, another won’t eat the food in front of them, and that one nags me for something new. I’m angry at myself for letting them get sucked into consuming and collecting and one-upping. Have I failed as a mother? As I rip open bills and look at bank accounts, I’m angry at myself for falling into it too. Have I failed as human being? I bite my tongue and try to hide my anguish. Go easy on them. They didn’t have this experience. But what about me? I did have it. Twice. How am I changed? Have I done right by this?
I turn the water on at the sink to fill my coffee pot. It’s so easy. Mala’s face flashes before me. She walks 2 kilometers for water to wash with, and has to buy drinking water in jugs each day. She has no faucet, no air conditioner, no windows, no fans. She only has light when the solar panel they were given works (or when the sun shines). She goes hungry to make sure her children have food and books for school. I think of my little cockroach friend in my hotel bathroom and how I left the light on all night so he wouldn’t come out and play. I think how they have no such luxury, and I shudder.
I’m haunted by these precious beautiful people, and I don’t know what to do about it. It doesn’t get any easier the second time you take a trip like this. The tears are just under the surface as I pull food out of refrigerator and pantry for dinner, as I hop into my van to drop my son off at school, as I curl up on my mattress under our ceiling fan’s whir and burrow under the sheets and blankets. My life is so easy when I think about the challenges they face.
I know what I wrote before:
This whole thing? It isn’t about me. It’s about God and what He is doing. I’ve been given a small part, and broken is exactly how I need to be. I’m just a pot with cracks that give you a glimpse of how God is planting and cultivating hope in the desperately poor. Those cracks work the other way too, giving the people of Sri Lanka, both those in need and those serving, a glimpse of your love for them.
I saw how it touched our sponsored boys’ moms that I, a stranger from the other side of the world, cared enough about them and their sons to bring them presents and partner with them to help them make a better future. They are just like me, when someone cares enough about my children to invest in them. My breath catches in my throat when I remember playing ball with those boys.
I know that where I live should determine what I give. I know this. And we are giving. But it doesn’t make the stark contrast, the whiplash, any easier. Everyone on our team is experiencing this same agony. Tony wrote us last night that one week ago, we threw an 8th birthday party for the girl he and his wife sponsor, and today he threw an 8th birthday party for his son. It’s almost too much.
They say ignorance is bliss. And it is. But I don’t want to go back, even if I could. What we’ve seen is real and these questions I have are important. I want to, no I need to find what it is that we are to do, the lucky ones. Every person we’ve met and every story we’ve heard is a treasure, and now we are their caretakers. I want to be a good steward of them.
Disclosure: Thank you to World Vision USA for inviting me to join the Sri Lanka bloggers trip this year and for paying my travel expenses.
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