The Messy, Beautiful Children of the World

Achievement and hope are easy to digest. I learned this the very moment I stepped off the airplane in Southern Asia. The sheer delight and gratification of a dream now realized is one of the sweetest elixirs of life, raw sewage and all.

It is that time again. Another day, another opportunity, beckons me to arise and conquer my miniscule world. I awaken to the clamorous rumblings of squawking birds, angry street peddlers, and incessant horn honking reverberating through the pregnant streets below. The aroma of the pungent, overflowing trash bins assails my nose as I lift the window and abruptly decide the stifling heat is not the worst thing. Today I am grateful for coffee and the false promise of modernity with which it mocks me. I embrace the possibilities as I ready myself for the task that lies barely within my reach. Because, how do you hand out hope, anyway?     

I stop at the derelict park nearby. I greet small children, playing as if none of us should ever wonder if the sky truly might be falling. Together, we forge ahead in believing that our homes are really not that different, that mankind is not so obtuse, that the proverbial line is not drawn in the sand between the "haves" and the "have-nots". For this day, for this hour, I stand in their corner; I trumpet their cause. 

I remember what I have told my own children all along: People are people. The color of their skin, the condition of their home, the language they speak...it doesn't matter. People are people. We are the same, all loved by God, all in need of His boundless grace. 

Yet, how do you explain to your babies that other babies don't have Mommies or Daddies? How do you explain to your kids that while you're tucking them in to bed each night, other kids are getting beaten, raped, sold, killed...right outside?! Right outside..not on the other side of the world. We are the other side of the world now! 

A child approaching our car in the middle of the intersection causes my breath to freeze in my lungs. Of course we want to give; poor baby needs to eat. We want to help; poor baby has so much need, and we simply have...well, all of us have too much. Yet, that poor baby won't eat from the nickel he's requested, and then, tight-fisted, we watch him hand it over to the woman who boxed his ears and slapped his face. All because we talked with him too long, and he missed other opportunities to beg. That sweet child will go another day, giving in to the demands of whatever street "pimp" or leader is making him work, forcing him to beg, cutting off his legs.

How do I go to sleep at night?  When there are more than one million street children living throughout this country I call my home? In the capital city alone, there are more than 300,000 of these precious little Image Bearers of the Most High. I see them every day, digging through my garbage, pulling on my bag as I cross the street, following me in to the market. They want money, they want food. They simply want me...isn't that what all children want? Someone to notice, someone to accept them, someone to care, and maybe just maybe, someone who will love them?

I see you. The little girl in ragged clothes, feeding your infant sister while you squelch the rumbling pangs of your own hunger. 

I see you. The small boy playing cricket in the trash heap, using a plastic Coke bottle as your prized ball, sweat mixing with the mud, streaking your already brown face.

I see you. The one in the classroom, the one in the house, the one who is simply left out.

So, today, with every push of the swing, with every gleeful shout wafting up from the bottom of the slide, this love grows slowly but steadily. Rising up from the burnt ashes of poverty and neglect, the children climb courageously toward the prospect of hope. The divider is gone; I do not see "my children" or "street children" or "those children". There are only children here...children belonging to all of us, the children of the world. 

I glance tentatively at my watch, conflicted feelings of loss and light oozing out. It is time to leave, time to reenter the cosmos of living on the ethereal other side of the tracks. I grab my camera and a few petite hands as I gather up the remnants of our lunch and dinner. I bid each child farewell and throw a weighted "see you tomorrow" over my shoulder as I trudge along the nearly silent path toward home.

It is that time again. Another day, another opportunity, has been breathed. With the children's constant chatter swirling around in my head, I pour another cup of coffee and unlatch the hesitant window. The redolence still burns my tired eyes, yet tonight I welcome the sensation. Instead of resisting the reality, I lean in closer and inhale the scent of hope. I can finally relax into the warm blanket that awaits me: the enveloping truth of living and loving in Southern Asia.

My own children are no different from the street kids dancing around the gutters of our new home. This I know. All bleed. All feel. All need. What is messy, what is beautiful, is the road of hope, of grace, of redemption that is ever winding before us...all of us. We are the children of the world.

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