Helping Those We Do Not Understand
Recently I saw a little experiment. A man intentionally placed some money into the backpack of a street person while he was sleeping on a bench in the park. As he woke up and saw the money, he could not believe it. It took him some time to believe that it was real. The hidden camera showed the shocked expression on his face. He was followed with a secret camera as he went to a store to buy something. I confess that my heart was pounding while watching this experiment thinking that he will probably buy food but also liquor or cigarettes. To my surprise he came out with two bags and no sign of alcohol or cigarettes. As he went back to his bench with the two bags from Target, a person intentionally came and sat on the bench next to him and started complaining over the phone that he had no money and that his little girl needed medicine. It was interesting to see the homeless person as he was listening to the phone conversation. After the phone conversation was over, the street man hesitatingly asked the father about the needed medicine. After a couple of minutes, he asked the father to watch his backpack as he went back to the store with the two bags. In the bags, he had a pillow and a sleeping bag. He returned that to the store and gave all “his” money to the man who needed the medicine for his daughter. His words: “you need this more than I do” made my eyes water. I realized that no matter how poor a person might be, when you experience suffering and hurt, you understand the pain of others better.
For some of us middle class Christians, it is sometimes hard to relate with the people who suffer from desperate poverty. Naturally we do not fully understand those suffering at a level we have never experienced. Many times, with all the suffering that goes on in our communities or in the world, we become numb and just say “Oh, I’m sorry.” Let me give you a situation that stayed with me for some time. In one of our Feeding Centers, there is a girl and her sister that I asked about. Narcisa is 11 and Denisa is 9. They come from a family of 8 siblings. Their father left them years ago and their mother is in prison. It is up to an elderly grandmother to raise all of them. It is important to note that they live in one of the poorest places of Romania with no jobs available. Recently their ragged house was disconnected from the water source because they did not have money to pay the water bill. Narcisa and Denisa are going daily to beg their neighbors for water to drink and cook with. When I heard that the only real food they have is at our Feeding Center, and beyond that they survive on a piece of bread and some rice twice a week, I was shocked. When I look at the two girls, and try to understand their feelings, I realize I cannot. How does it feel to have no parents, no food, and no water? Do you know? I am ashamed to say that the only thing I know is how it feels to have loving parents, plenty of water and sufficient food. We cannot change their past but we can try to help their present and change their future. We are committed to helping them. We will help with their water bill and look into ways of bringing them into the Bread of Life Orphanage. Narcisa and Denisa are not unique cases. It is sad to say but this is a common problem that we find in the lives of the children who attend our Feeding Centers.
What can we do? The Bible tells us to “suffer with the ones that suffer,” …but can we really understand their feelings? I do not think we can relate to their pain as well as the homeless man did with his fellow sufferer. We may never experience what they do, but we can help them experience what we do, that is a lack of hunger every day. This is the mission of Bread of Life as we reach out to help Narcisa and Denisa and many others like them.