I have subscribed to all the usual suspects on Twitter, CNN and BBC and every “breaking news” feed that I could find. A wealth of information at my fingertips, one mindless click away. Daily, I scroll through, growing progressively more numb with each sensational headline. We live in a world where genocide and car bombs are commonplace, where little girls are stolen into tangled jungles and the whole world cries bring them back from the comfort of our air conditioned living rooms. Hunger gnaws, hope wanes, poverty crushes and the whole aching world groans under the suffocating weight of sin. I confess that on far too many days, I turn away. I cannot feel it all.
The more information that I have at my leisurely disposal, the less I am prone to read it. But yesterday, I saw this headline and frozen, I couldn’t look away. Not from him. “’Invisible’ in India: The story of a disabled boy tied to Mumbai bus stop.”
Tied? I breathe heavy, seething eyes already flashing at the monster who bound a little boy with rope and left him like a dog.
And then I read. I read about Lakhan Kale, a nine year old deaf and mute little boy with cerebral palsy and haunting brown eyes. I read about his Grandma, Sakubai, the only family Lakhan has that hasn’t died or abandoned him. My American eyes widen as the story unfolds, both of them living on the street, Grandma selling this and that to anyone that will stop, desperately trying to scrape together the necessary coins to feed her Grandson. Some days, she is successful. The monster fades as I begin to see a withered, 70 year old woman, pleading red eyes brimming with exhausted tears. Her shoulders defeatedly hunch as she quietly whispers, He can’t hear the traffic. If he ran onto the road he’d get killed. What else can I do?”
And so she would leave him tied to a pole while she went to work.
I feel like the air has been sucked out of the room as the breath catches in my throat and I stare unblinking at my screen, her words echoing in my mind. What else can I do? What are your options when you’re a homeless Grandmother with a disabled Grandson that couldn’t tell a stranger where he lived even if he had a home to be returned to?
I am gutted as I begin to understand that in India, there are no options. Stones fly easily from my air conditioned living room, but as the impossible weight of her every day seeps into my heart and leaks out of my eyes, I am enraged at the unfairness of it all. I am strangely proud of this woman that I had denounced as a monster, proud of her for staying with her disabled Grandson. For doing the very best that she could do. I want to grab her hands and look hard into her weary eyes and tell her I know you really tried.
And I am livid. I understand that the boy with the haunting brown eyes and his withered Grandmother are merely two of the 1.3 billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 a day. Just two of the 1.3 billion people living the raw, aching story of poverty. Living hungry bellies and preventable diseases, living in a world where other children go to school while theirs go to work. Living in a world where they go to bed with a sinking understanding that tomorrow will be just like today, that they and their children will die in the same cycle of poverty that has enslaved their family for generations.
In an age where newsfeeds are flooded with the searing stories of a world crumbing from the decay of sin, God forgive us if we ever become numb to 1.3 billion people with no choices. God forgive us if we stand idly by while 1.3 billion people that weren’t fortunate enough to have their story picked up by CNN stand with their noses pressed hard to the glass window of privilege, begging a watching world to intervene.
I believe that we can change the story of poverty. It’s why I work for HOPE International. A friend of mine often says that Good intentions are not good enough if we believe that people are created in the image of God, and I think he’s right. For so long, in a flurry of good intentions we have tried to solve global need by sending things. Our hearts hemorrhage and throb, and stricken by the headlines that we read we box up food and clothing and medical supplies–sending the unintentional but unmistakable message that the image-bearers on the receiving end are not enough. That they are incapable. That they somehow need us.
What if, instead of sending boxes, we looked at those same men and women and gave them the dignity of investing in their dreams, instead? What if we offered them a small loan and Christ-centered business training, affirming the glorious truth that they too, are image bearers? What if we offered them the tools that they needed to work themselves and their families out of poverty?
Lakhan Kale, his Grandmother and the 1.3 billion precious lives standing behind them bear the imago Dei. They are creative, entrepreneurial, hard working people–and they are capable. They deserve far more than our pity and charity.
The roots of the issues at play in global poverty are manifold and tightly intertwined, and I am not naïve enough to suggest that there exists a tidy solution that will put all to right. But as men and women that are breathing the same air and walking around the same planet as 1.3 billion of our brothers and sisters that don’t know how they are going to feed their children tonight, we do not have the luxury of simply throwing up our hands and blithely continuing to scroll through our cluttered newsfeeds. There is far too much at stake.
Their stories matter, and I desperately want to be a part of empowering them to rewrite the endings. HOPE is committed to changing the story of poverty. Will you join us?