I’d traveled to this particular island country in The Caribbean more than 20 times before. Well-known for its music, strong, punchy signature accent, challenges with poverty punctuated by upscale resorts, and less known for its magnificent rolling mountains, rushing rivers, fabulously delicious food, and manufacturing muscle. This place often gets a ‘bad rep,’ so for this post, I prefer to focus more on the lesson than the location.
Of the places I’ve traveled to, it’s one of two where I had an eye-opening experience …witnessing children gather…and beg. The first time I encountered this heartbreaking reality, I was with a friend who was a French exchange student. (Much of my childhood included visiting live-in French students, ‘a brother and sister’ from a particular children’s home, and travelers overnighting at our home in Barbados.) This time, we were on a group trip.
We had decided to skip a mountain visit and head into town to do some shopping instead. We caught the bus, strolled for a bit and somehow, ended up in an area that compelled an elderly lady to grab us by the arm and warn us to watch our bags. She gave us directions to a more populated part of town, and on the way there, a group of no less than ten little boys (still at primary school stage, yet not at school on this day), incited by a man sitting nearby, followed us closely down the street with “Mummy – mummy, I need some money money!” – while reaching for our bags. As two bewildered teens, we spoke to them while walking.
The encounter stirred up an awareness of how clueless we were at the time, about real-time survival challenges that so many children and adults still face just a few islands away.
I was barely out of high school then, and though I’ve visited loads of time since then, this experience has awakened a compassion for children who go without food and enduring challenges that would easily eek the joy out of a fully-grown heart. An imprint of a woman sitting on the sidewalk of a bridge in another tropical island country – one hopeful hand extended for contributions by kind passers-by, and the other cradling a baby.
Fast forward to this particular day years later, when my sister-friend and I went to get a veggies burger with fries, at a spot in town. Two little girls; one about five years senior to the other, sat on the bench facing the entrance.
We shared smiles and said, “hi” to these beams of sunlight sitting side by side.
When we came out, and were about to head to the car, I paused and looked at them.
The elder of the two asked for money to buy something to eat.
A few minutes later, when she was handed a fresh parcel of food, the bigger girl looked up and asked, “Are you God?”
The whispered question shook me. How could she think I was someone I hadn’t yet invited into my heart. Then not knowing about an undeserved gift called grace, I replied – certain,
“No, I’m not God…but He loves you.”
And we said “goodbye” and that was that. But the lesson lived on.
So many go without…and they matter.
When we can – let’s do
God can choose and use anyone, even when others may feel compelled to give us the credit. The glory is His, and the compassion is of Him.
He cares, and sends what we need when, when and how we need to receive it, through both subtle and profound ways according to His will