My college roommate had an older sister who did her junior year abroad in Africa (Kenya, I think), and I’ve always remembered their mother mentioning once that her older daughter had had a difficult time adjusting upon her return because she’d seen so much poverty. It’s a thought that’s stuck with me through the years, and hits me especially when I read posts from bloggers visiting poverty-stricken areas in Africa and South America.
One of those bloggers is Kristen of We are THAT Family, who went to Kenya earlier this year and has periodically shared the residual impact of that trip since her return. Earlier this month (because I am that behind on my reading), Kristen wrote about a boy who was happy and content despite his horrifying living conditions, who, when she asked why he was happy and unafraid, responded, “Because I have Jesus.” And Kristen wrote about how, ever since, she has tried to live so that Jesus is enough for her.
Her post brought to mind the same struggle I’ve had for years, and one that’s been on my mind more lately because I’ve been feeling particularly blessed: How do I balance the abundance in my life against the poverty of others?
I am Christian, but I am also very much a capitalist, and so while I believe in charity, I don’t believe in the redistribution of wealth. And yet, I feel guilty when I ask God to continue blessing our family – when I pray, I can’t pretend that I’m asking for more for our family so that we can share our blessings with others. That’s certainly a part of our intention, but not the main part. What I’m really saying is, Please, God, give us the financial security and stability so that we can send our boys to the best private middle and high schools because the public schools are unacceptable and all of our other options are not guaranteed, and I would love to know that my boys’ education can be taken care of without compromising our retirement planning.
My prayers seem, well, selfish and greedy when there are children in this world who starve to death and don’t have enough clothes and are sold into slavery.
I don’t have any answers. I do my best to do God’s will, to be generous and kind, and set a good example for my children. I remember that it makes little sense to help a child thousands of miles away and yet be a bad neighbor or friend. And there are other causes that I want to support too – the USO is especially close to my heart, and I highly recommend the inspiring articles in their magazine, On Patrol. And I can’t do it all.
So I guess it comes down to what most things come down to: Do my best, and hope that it’s good enough.
I’ll never really know if it was good enough. But I can live with that.