Monday, July 14, 2008

That's pretend, right?

That's pretend, right?

It rained today for a few hours and it felt weird because we haven't had a ton of that in the last year in Georgia. We've had some off and on showers, but we've been struggling with a drought that has robbed our lakes and placed several water bans on our neighborhoods.

The weird thing is that until you don't get any rain, you take it for granted. You just expect that it will happen. That is what naturally happens. Water falls from the sky, clouds open up, flowers and trees and birds get a drink. But when you don't have rain, when it just stops for a week or a month or a year, you suddenly realize how much you've been taking it for granted.

The other day, my daughter dropped a child-sized nuclear bomb on me that reminded me of something else I have taken for granted.

We were looking at a book on storms, something she loves right now, and came to a page about drought and famine. In the corner of the page was a little boy from Ethiopia. He was starving, with ribs sticking out and flies covering his small face. I kept flipping the pages but L.E. made me stop and return to that one. She asked, "What's that?" I told her, "That's a little boy that doesn't have enough food to eat. He is poor." She thought for a few seconds and then responded, "That's not real though. That's pretend right?"

This simple question floored me. In her mind, deep within the truth that is the heart of a four year old, she could literally not fathom a child ever being hungry. The idea that someone would starve did not make any sense. Death by poverty did not register with her. She thought it was unreal.

I confess that I take poverty for granted. I flipped right by that photo without registering even the faintest emotion I throw at ABC's Extreme Home Makeover. I act like poverty is natural. That starving is just something that happens. That kids without food is the way the world is.

But maybe it's not. Maybe when Christ said he wants us to have the faith of a child, this is exactly what He was talking about. That it is unacceptable for a child to starve to death. That it is not right or natural for another human being to die of a preventable disease or a mosquito bite or water that is polluted.

I support a few charities and tonight I registered a new website, unrealpoverty.com. There is nothing up right now and I don't know if I will ever be able to do anything with it. But if things continue to go the way they are going and people to continue to build a community around the conversations we are having online, maybe someday I'll get to start a charity. Maybe someday I won't take poverty for granted. Maybe someday I'll help make it unreal.

19 comments:

jasdye said...

this might be a good place to look at for the time being. to get some ideas or even to turn people to what they're doing. seattle pastor eugene cho and his wife are starting a grassroots non-for-profit that is trying to connect people with small ngo's on the ground in extremely impoverished areas to combat extreme poverty directly.

Lisa E said...

I started my morning on SCL and after laughing hysterically at the "signs from God" blog, I linked over here. Talk about how relevant your writing is, especially on this specific day...tomorrow at 2:15am, my 14 year old and I will be going on our first mission trip with the youth group, to Costa Rica.

We've donated to charities, served the homeless at a soup kitchen in dowtown St. Louis, taken sack lunches to the homeless in downtown San Francisco and she even adopted her own Compassion child, but tomorrow, she will see firsthand, exactly what is REAL. She will hug and feed those hungry children, sing and play with orphans and seniors, and maybe fix or build something that will help a community. We will share the word of God, hopefully help alot of people, but what I want her to learn most, is that there's alot of that REAL out there, and that even one of us can make a difference out there.

Keep us posted on what you do with that new registered site...our church calls that movement to make a difference "Love. Loud." That was me that sent you that piece of flair over on Facebook! :)

AA said...

Until you develop a site, perhaps you could redirect it to a site with similar causes like Compassion International?

Allison said...

I wasn't even aware of my own thinking on this matter until I read your post.

"I act like poverty is natural. That starving is just something that happens. That kids without food is the way the world is."

That's how I think of it, too, and I've never really realized that. So thanks for shedding some light on my own self. Good luck with the charity thing, and of course, let all of us readers know what we can do to help and support you :)

Christianne said...

jon, i too found this post relevant to my day. just this morning, i've started reading henri nouwen's "the wounded healer," and in the first chapter he talks about the modern man's disillusionment with reality. he has no real connection to the past and no real hope for the future, so all he knows to do is live in the now. consequently, he has no hope and no vision and lives a fragmented existence. he knows something is missing, but usually he just gives up and doesn't try to solve what's gone wrong. truly, he feels no hope that doing anything or even trying to figure it out will make any real difference at all.

nouwen says that when this modern man does decide to do something about it, he goes in one of two directions: he either looks inward or goes outward. the inward response makes him a mystic, and he finds that the answers to the world's ills are found in our common connection as human beings. the outward response makes him a revolutionary, and he believes the answers to the world's ills are a complete overhaul of the existing world order.

ultimately, nouwen concludes that christianity embodies both. the mystic and the revolutionary are two sides of the same coin that christ embodied and invites us to be.

all of this eventually led to me thinking once again about shane claiborne's "an irresistible revolution." you've probably read that book already, but if not, it's a great place to start deepening the dialogue about how to make a real difference from the heart of the gospel toward these things, from the life of a man who lives with a heart of compassion and a life of action toward these very same notions.

Ming said...

While you develop your site--have you ever looked into Children's Hunger Fund? The things that they do are amazing, and they only use 1% of their resources on themselves.

Beth said...

I work for Compassion International (www.compassion.com) and would recommend anyone who feels the same way Jon does to check us out.

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

ajandmac said...

Do you wonder if charity is enough?

Money is great, and who would turn down monetary funding? [Not me.] But, what if there's something more to our forgetfulness?

What if God said something like, "What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families." [He did say something like that, if you're interested it's Isaiah 58]

THAT kind of charge is something a little more difficult for me, but a little closer to the way Jesus lived. It just makes me wonder...

This is something I've been wrestling with for a while now, I read Shane Claiborne's, Irresistible Revolution, and it sent me spinning with new ideas, and many more questions about poverty and our reaction to the world as Christ-followers.

I hope you keep asking questions...

...and keep seeking the answers.

cat said...

I have a group in Woodstock (hey, neighbor!) called If Not Now, When? (www.innwhen.blogspot.com)Because God challenged us with that question, I would like to challenge you, Jon. Let's not use these "maybe somedays" anymore. Today is the Day, brother.

JD Groves said...

What a powerful post. I desperately desire that my mind will fathom poverty as unreal and impossible. Thank you for such a beautiful and painful picture.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Our church will try to tackle the 'hunger issue' this fall by raising awareness. We're using Isaiah 58 as our focus...w/ the tagline, SPEND YOURSELF. We're pointing people to Bread for the World, World Vision and other orgs b/c this issue isn't just about distributing food at our local food pantry but about advocacy, education and policy change.

Warren said...

Jon - great post. I also got about the same response from my oldest (5 at the time) when we were talking about giving food to a local food ministry here. When I told him that some people didn't have enough money to buy food and sometimes didn't have enough food to eat....his reaction...noooo, you're kidding.

I wish I was.

Spider Monkey all hopped up on Amp! said...

I heard Tony Campolo state "(According to a profile in Christianity Today entitled) The Positive Prophet... I have three things I'd like to say to you today. First while you were sleeping last night 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second most of you don't give a Sh!*. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said Sh!* than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night". I heard that and realized that he was right and the prevaling attitude was such. Since that point we have taken the appropriate steps to make sure that we are part of the solution. I give a shoutout to compassion international.

TimD said...

I'll help ... how?

ericka b said...

Jon - this one got me, I'm probably going to repost it (as yours of course) on my blog in the next few days. I'm also planning to spread the word to some of my crew from work about your blogs - they really are phenomenal!

I love that you want to DO something about poverty. It's encouraging to me, because I work full time for a mission agency here in Georgia raising money for orphans in Africa and India.

If I could ask anything - can I have 5 minutes of your day? Watch this video and let me know what you think:
http://erickabennett.myadventures.org/?filename=the-nsoko-project

That's my blog - you can contact me from there. We'd love to have you on board, even just to help us spread the word! There's a lot of power in the pen (er...keyboard?)

I just want so badly to believe that the biggest problem in the world isn't apathy, it's ignorance. Thanks for telling people what's going on...it's the first step to change!

For more info, go here:
http://swaziland.myadventures.org
I think you'll really like some of the stories on there - like "somebody's baby", "he was too young to die", and "children of the dirt".

Blessings to you bro!

ericka b said...

Jon - this one got me, I'm probably going to repost it (as yours of course) on my blog in the next few days. I'm also planning to spread the word to some of my crew from work about your blogs - they really are phenomenal!

I love that you want to DO something about poverty. It's encouraging to me, because I work full time for a mission agency here in Georgia raising money for orphans in Africa and India.

If I could ask anything - can I have 5 minutes of your day? Watch this video and let me know what you think:
http://erickabennett.myadventures.org/?filename=the-nsoko-project

That's my blog - you can contact me from there. We'd love to have you on board, even just to help us spread the word! There's a lot of power in the pen (er...keyboard?)

I just want so badly to believe that the biggest problem in the world isn't apathy, it's ignorance. Thanks for telling people what's going on...it's the first step to change!

For more info, go here:
http://swaziland.myadventures.org
I think you'll really like some of the stories on there - like "somebody's baby", "he was too young to die", and "children of the dirt".

Blessings to you bro!

Dawn said...

Thanks for this. I have a friend who has recently adopted the attitude that he's a "one-issue" voter - the issue being abortion. And while I agree that abortion is very sad, I just keep saying to myself: What about the babies in Iraq? What about the 30,000 children who starve each day? Don't they matter to God too?

Addy said...

Wow. Thank you. We can all use reminders like this. Thanks again.

johndeerdrew said...

the website unrealpoverty.com isn't working. please help