Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Will I Be Changed?
A memory from China is etched in my mind. It continues to come to the forefront of my thoughts, and I find myself pondering its significance.
We are ordinary people for whom God has done EXTRAordinary things. Stan is a correctional officer in a prison, and I am a teacher.
When we were in China, though, we spent much of our time in luxurious surroundings.
Adoption facilitators in foreign countries, I believe, think most adoptive parents are rich. (They correctly assume that most Americans are spoiled, though they don't use those words.) With all of these assumptions and understandings, adoption travel is usually booked in high end hotels.
While we booked our own hotel in Beijing and Hong Kong, the remainder of our travel was booked by our agency. We spent two nights in a 4-star hotel and the the rest of the 2 weeks in mainland China in 5-star hotels.
I could live like that.
I enjoyed the extravagant tile shower in a bathroom with remote control drapes. I could choose to close the drapes and watch the flat screen television while I dressed or open them and enjoy the view of the city.
I looked forward to walks in the garden around the waterfall while listening to the children ooh and ahh at the beauty.
We had a separate dressing room and an office in our suite at The Garden.
But with all of its opulence, these are not the visions that keep me awake at night.
I think about what I saw just outside the property of the hotel...on the sidewalks visible here:
We had to cross a footbridge to cross the busy city street that ran in front of our hotel. As soon as we stepped onto the bridge, things began to change. There were nice hotels across the street and stores that sold foreign goods at high prices. There were Chinese citizens who could afford those things.
But, there were also beggars.
I've seen beggars in China before. (I've seen beggars in America.) For the first time, I am ashamed to admit, I was truly moved with compassion. So much so that my mind continues to revisit those faces.
I am certain that some beggars chose begging as a "way of life." I know that there is profit in begging. I am aware that children are sometimes forced to beg and are taught behaviors we would cringe to think of our own children doing.
On our first trip to China, Stan had an experience with such a child. She held her little metal bowl. When he passed by her, she grabbed his leg. She wouldn't let go. She looked at him with sad eyes and hung onto him for several city blocks. When she finally let go, she stood right on the street corner where he left her. Everytime he turned back, she was still standing there. We wondered why she was begging, if she was hungry, if her family taught her to grab foreigners, if she would be punished for not bringing in enough money that day.
On our second trip, we saw many disabled adults lining the sidewalks of Taiyuan, Shanxi. Every day, we passed them when we left our hotel to get something to eat. On our return home my sister Bobbie would talk about seeing them. She would wonder if that would have the life Ellie was destined for, had she not been adopted.
But, God grabbed my heart on this journey.
The first beggar we saw had deformed feet. There was no way he could have walked to the place where he was sitting. Someone had to have carried him there. As we continued to make our way across the bride, there were others, all with their deformities displayed for others to see, all with a look of despair.
But, then there was one man.
He was lying on the sidewalk, for lying down was all he could do. His muscles jerked as he tried to lift his head. He was frail and thin. He seemed to have little control of any movements his made. His eyes were pleading.
He was only wearing a loin cloth.
That's when my heart dropped in a way I can say I never remember before.
I know someone carried him there. I know someone intended to put him on public display. And, just yards away from him were police. Amidst all of this "luxury" a human being sat without any mercy being shown. And, the people just walked by. Law enforcement carried on business as usual.
And, I had to ask myself, "Why is this allowed to happen?"
I've done research since I've been home, and I remain unsettled about that experience. I'm not at peace with what I'm learning. I'm angry and "sickened" by the situation I realize others are living in.
But, what am I doing about it? Will I be changed?
I stood this week as a group of women talked about the price of a watch...thousands of dollars. They talked about what they would do with that. Buy diamonds. Buy a new wardrobe. Put in a swimming pool.
And, I thought, "Feed the hungry."
But, would I? Will I? We truly live in luxury, even if my sofa is broken and the A/C upstairs isn't working. We eat and we throw food away. And, people are starving.
My van is missing a hubcap. Pity me. There are many who walk miles to work.
We sit in our homes and enjoy our freedoms. We watch documentaires about atrocities. And, people are living in bondage. I really believe the disabled people we saw were living in bondage to someone.
But, what am I going to do?
I have been given a first hand glimpse at suffering. Will I be changed? Will I continue to enjoy my middle class life in comfort and forget what I saw? Will I be a voice for those who absolutely canNOT speak?
Will I be changed?