Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Confronted with Need.


The other day I went for a walk.
After perusing through the, much too busy for my country-blood, market
I found that I had developed a young tag-a-long by the name of Victoire (victory).
As I walked so did Victoire, across the street,
up the hill,
into the paper store,
down the road. As we walked, with what little Swahili I know I tried to talk with him.
"Jina lako?" (What's your name?)
"How is your mother?' To see if he had parents, and he did.
"My name is Andrew...Andre in french."
Now I presume Victoire had joined me on my walk because I was foreign,
 a muzungu,
a muzungu with money.
And with what english he knew, 
(which seemed only to be 'give' and 'money')
 after I made a purchase he would ask for something for himself.
But I know that I am not a sustainable source to him,
and that there is no way that I alone can provide
for the amount of people in need in the city of Bukavu.
But yet I tried to ask myself, "What would Jesus do with a hungry child."
Mother Teresa was confronted with people saying that she spoils the poor with free things.
She replied saying that God spoils us most of all with the free,
undeserved gifts of grace he showers on us.
How hungry was Victoire?
Was he only tagging along because he had been given a free hand-out by a muzungu before? 
Or was he really in need?
I don't know. Am I the one to judge circumstances worthy of need?
Or if I see good to do, then should I not do it?

I'm not telling you what I did.


I continued to walk that day,
Victoire with me all along the way.
And soon I met a man named John.
John had come from a village into the city in order to try and sell figurines, souveniers, masks,
in order to make money to bring back to the village.
His English was quite good and he explained to me the need for school fees
for children without parents in the village.
His story touched my heart,
though still I wondered if he knew what would be most touching to say.
But if the things he said were true, then I don't suppose it matters
whether he was saying them because I was muzungu or not.
As we walked John also pulled out some Canadian Tire money
that he had found in a coat pocket,
and he asked if it was any good.
I chuckled and explained that it 'was' money, but only good in one store in Canada.
He laughed as well and told me to keep it.
Now what surprised me most about John was this,
that though he carried his bag of little wooden boats
with banana leaf figurines,
nativity scenes,
and model motorcycles, he never once tried to sell me them.
He just wanted to let me know his story.
I look forward to meeting him again
as he wants to show me his collection of masks 
and tell me about the history of the tribes they represent.
"Perhaps one day you will write a book on them. " He had said to me. 
Perhaps I will.

The Student. 

I had been told about a nice hotel which offered a natural place by the lake to read and work.
So one afternoon I ventured to find the Hotel Orchid.
I, still being new to the city, took the wrong way...twice...okay three times.
However through this adventure I met many new people,
and by the time I finally made it to my destination
I had a group of 7 or 8 teenage guys with me who were showing me the way,
all the while we were teaching each other new words,
exchanging Swahili, French and English.
Now it was after my visit at the Orchid
and as I walked back up the winding, dirt-road hill
that I said 'Jambo' to a young man with big working gloves who was walking down the hill.
"Cava?" He replied. It took a moment for my brain to switch to French,
and then I responded that I was well, but didn't speak much French,
then asked him in Swahili, how he was doing.
"Muzuri" I'm well, was his reply, as is all others.
I didn't catch his name, but he seemed just a little younger than myself,
and he was able to speak with broken but understandable English.
And he too began to explain his current story to this muzungu so confronted with need this day.
He explained to me that his current studies were soon coming to an end,
and that soon he could get his badge,
I didn't quite catch what it was for exactly.
But soon he could get his badge, but there was just one problem.
He pulled out his wallet, and from his wallet he pulled a card.
A card with the cost of a final test he must take.
"I just have one problem" he told me, and I could hear his voice beginning to shake,
as he pointed at the hand-written test fee on the small card.
Forty-five dollars.
"You see sir I finish soon but I have this one problem."
He had some money but not enough.
Forty-five dollars for him to take his test in order for him to receive his badge for work.
Five meals at Lans....one cheap back pack...a couple new shirts...
They could open up a whole new spectrum of opportunity for this young student
who apologized for his shaking voice and the tears welling as he explained his situation.
But yet he is another among many who face these challenges.
Challenges only able to be met by a stable economy and not
by an already in-debt-to-the-Government-of-Ontario college student
who, yet, still spends money on things he really doesn't need. 

What did I do? I'm not telling you that either. Something to muddle over in your mind.
To have given, if I did, or if I did not... If you would have, or if you would have not...
Would it have been done out  a genuine compassion for the needs of others?
Or out of an act, most deeply, done to appease and relieve the guilt, or fear,
of appearing as a well-off muzungu who refused to offer even a little to help another.

Would you have been
driven by love,
or dragged by guilt,
to act in the manner which you think you would?
I find that I think I know the answer my heart would offer to these questions,
until I'm actually asked them by life circumstance and experience.
Then I discover that the face in the mirror is actually a bit more of a stranger than I thought,
and I don't know myself as well I would have assumed. 

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