week #41 stay committed to the cause

shacksI was tempted to simply write ‘On holiday’ for this week’s post; not just because I really am on holiday but because all I want to do is take a break from trying to change the world. This is always my reaction when I arrive in South Africa. I get entirely overwhelmed by the immensity of the poverty that surrounds me. My own abundance is exaggerated in the eyes of those dressed in tattered clothes who look at me holding out their hands.

I have cried every day since I arrived. Two days ago it was at a traffic light where a young boy was sitting beside the road accompanied by his three faithful dogs – one brown, one black and one white. He could not have been older than seventeen and most of his teeth were missing; his clothes were merely rags. Yesterday it was over the old man who was shuffling along the beach as if he had no place to go and not a hope in the world. Each day I must focus my attention on just one or two individuals or I find that I become emotionally crippled by the enormity of the problem. Nowhere else in the world does the rich-poor divide confront me with such force as it does here, in the place I once called home. And as much as I just want the problem to go away, I know I must do something.

The realisation that I simply cannot help every person who appeals to my compassion would usually leave me feeling totally helpless and defeated. Yet, this trip I have felt less inclined to feel hopeless. Yes, the desperation of the people still breaks my heart. Yes, I feel angry that the promises made by the government to those who need help have mostly all been broken. But I keep reminding myself of the bigger picture. Each one of us doing our small bit in our own lives will one day impact those living in shanty towns in South Africa. What is important is that we remain consistent and steadfast in the fight against extreme poverty.

So this week I am simply pledging to stay committed to being a voice for the voiceless – all those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty over which they have no control. As well as this I am also going to fully appreciate all the incredible blessings in my own life. I had no say over the family or life into which I was born; neither did the 1.4 billion people who live on far less than I could ever begin to imagine. I am so grateful for all I have and this week I am reminded that I have a responsibility to the world’s poor to continue to do my bit. And with a renewed sense of hope perhaps I will be able to pass the man at the traffic light, with his sign that reads ‘Please help. I am hungry.’ without the inevitable waterworks that ensue. Just maybe.

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