Have you ever seen this bumper sticker? I'm not really sure what the original creator of this was thinking when he/she made it - it probably has some political implication that I don't even agree with - but for some reason this particular bumper sticker resonates with me.
Usually bumper stickers make me roll my eyes. It's silly to think putting an idea on a piece of sticky paper on the back of a car might make someone decide to think like I do.
But this one makes sense to me. I spent an hour at a meeting this week for folks who are interested in traveling to Swaziland with Heart for Africa next summer. That means I got to spend an hour talking about (and listening to others talk about) how much we love that country and the Swazi people. And I was reminded of how much they are suffering; how much tragedy and poverty has been heaped upon a tiny country the size of New Jersey.
And in the midst of my general frustration that comes from election years, I came home pretty outraged. Mothers in Swaziland are jailed for stealing food because they can't feed their children. Their children who are under three get to live with their mothers in prison (did I just say get? yes, those are the lucky children) but their other children are left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Americans are squabbling over which presidential candidate's policies are going to make sure they have more money in their pockets at the end of the day.
I'm a mom. I can't even leave my children for a couple of days without missing them. I had a big ole' meltdown the last time I was in Swaziland because I was so far away from my children and I CHOSE to go on that short trip. There are mothers in Swaziland who are having to watch their little ones grow up in prison while their hearts ache for the children they've left behind at home, not knowing if those children even have enough to eat, much less any adult supervision.
I keep hearing the amounts of money that the candidates have raised for their campaigns. I keep seeing facebook posts about how what matters most is electing the person who will make sure Americans keep getting richer.
And I'm outraged.
Why aren't people as willing to fund restorative programs as they are negative campaign ads? Why aren't we posting on facebook about the women whose children are going to suffer and die because they died of AIDS in an age when HIV is no longer a death sentence? Why are we not outraged that there are mothers who walk this same planet who feel that the best option for their newborn babies is to drop them down a pit latrine and hope for a quick death? This is reality in Swaziland.
My outrage isn't directed at those suffering. It's directed at me, at my culture, at my society. That we are letting this happen. My heart can't even imagine how the mothers of Swaziland are suffering, how they hurt.
I don't want to ignore this. I'm paying attention. I've seen poverty both here in my city and a country an 18-hour-plane-ride plus 5-hour-bus-ride away. And I want to be outraged. I do. I don't want to stick my head in the sand and live my life as if I don't know.
I can't solve all the problems. But Jesus has made it pretty clear what role I am to have. And I've hugged my brothers and sisters in Swaziland. They're trying so hard to heal their country. And a visit from someone from so far away brings them hope and encouragement. I've held children who have no parents; who are raising themselves. And a hug and a listening ear can bring an afternoon of healing to a child or a mother or father who has been struggling. Helping a community plant a garden can provide food for the next several months. And I've hugged the homeless men and women who live 10 minutes from my house, assuring them that, while they are in my presence, I will listen to them and give them grace and dignity, not judgment. I don't have to solve the problems - but I do have to love others as Christ does. And loving means doing, going, walking, planting, hugging. And it means sacrificing so that others may have when I have abundance.
So that's why I'll be returning to Swaziland next summer. Because I'm paying attention. And because the same God the Swazis are crying out to for help is telling me to go. If it were me crying out for help, I would pray someone would be willing to go. If they weren't, it would be an outrage... wouldn't it?