So, a continuation…

9 08 2008

So I was talking about Crossroads International last night, and it was an immense experience because of the new perspective from someone in a slum. We had to make stacks of 10 paper bags, and sell them to the shopkeepers, who were basically lord over the land kind of thing, and they may or may not accept them. So the money we had to make was like:

  • 100 for food
  • 130 for rent
  • 30 for sanitation (which was optional, but if you didn’t pay for it, and went behind the slums instead, you ran the risk of malaria and measles and other diseases, which 2 of my family did)
  • 500 for education (which, again, was not essential, but if you think about it, it really is. Without education, the cycle of poverty never breaks… and it’s such a tragedy)

They were 10 minute sessions, and if you couldn’t pay rent, you had to go and live under the bridge, which took more money to get out of, and was further away from the shops. After a while, an announcement was made that we could opt to sell one of the children to a sneaker factory and make 250 off of them, but we’d never see them again. It became a life and death situation for me, and at one point, I shouted, “WE ARE NOT SELLING ANYONE! JUST MAKE THE PAPER BAGS – WE’LL BE FINE! WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND WE’RE NOT SELLING ANYONE!” It got quite intense, and even though we couldn’t pay the rent for one of the sessions, we were able to keep everyone alive, and nobody was sold. The shopkeeper I had to deal with at one point found one bag unsatisfactory, and ripped that one up. He then threw the rest of the bags in my face, and the whole experience was heinous. But. We didn’t give any shady hugs or massages… and for that, I was thankful.

But what I got out of it was how when desperate, it’s so easy to compromise on morals and ethics and values, and just do what’s easy. I’m not judging that; it’s just that a group of highly educated adults made decisions they wouldn’t normally have made, merely to survive in a simulation. There were people who stole from one another to metaphorically put food on the table, and there were others who thought hugging for 50 was no big deal… it was heartbreaking when I had to think about a mother making that decision to sell a child so she could feed the other children… and a story was told of families that allow horrific things to be done to young children by tourists and the like and whilst crying in the next room as that thing was done to them, praying that the child would not remember those sinful, evil things being done… God, it was just so… horrible. On the one hand there was always the thought that I’d be able to leave the situation and get back into the comfort of my home, and be fed and provided-for, but on the other hand, there was the sheer desperation of not being able to feed my children, and all that that entails. It was a shocking, horrible experience, but so valuable.

And because of the decisions I had to make, and because of the choices that lie before each of us, tonight at Solid Rock, I gave the introductory talk on decisions and choices, and then we watched Shells, the 20th Nooma video. It asked some huge questions of me, and I thought hard about my answers. I love it when something asks difficult questions, which might not even have concrete answers. Although I’m one of those people who prefer steps and stages that are tangible and accessible, tough questions about faithand belief need to be asked, and we need to wrestle with them to really understand what our purpose is.

I think I’m learning that bit by bit. What my purpose is, and what I’m living for, those are questions I’m asking of myself day by day. Eventually I will have the same answer to the two questions, and eventually, they will be the ‘right’ answers, but for now, they’re honest answers, at least.

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