I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is Harry Belafonte (What? You don't know who Harry Belafonte is? Where were you in the 1950's? See video below). I sometimes enjoy dancing around the living room holding my 5 year old son, Dylan, in my arms and listening to Harry Belafonte. Dylan is getting to where he’s almost too big for me to do that. He’s getting so heavy. My oldest graduated from that years ago.
Other pleasures I really enjoy are enchiladas and tortilla soup, spinach lasagna, chicken parmesan, pepperoni pizza, and a number of other things laden with fat and rich sauces. My wife has become too good of a cook during our 9 years here and I always have to be careful not to eat too much.
In the song “Day-o,” Mr. Belafonte is actually portraying the plight of a poor laborer who only gets paid in bananas. I don’t remember saying this to my parents, but I probably did say at one point, “ You just don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid.” If I did, my parents probably laughed at me. However, what if the poor, the truly poor, could say to us rich Americans, not only do you not remember being poor, but you’ve never even experienced what that feels like. Can you imagine getting paid in bananas? What would you ask for as a raise? “Come on, boss, I’d like to try apples this month?”
We are saturated in poverty in Burkina Faso. However, the poorest of the poor here are orphans. Orphans in Burkina are often treated like non-persons. They do not eat meals together with their host families, if they even have someone who will take them for a while. If a mother dies in childbirth and the newborn survives, it is assumed that the child has a curse and is left unattended during the mother’s funeral. If the child somehow survives this ordeal, then the nearest relatives debate who has to take the cursed baby. Unspeakably sad.
|Kid's show about Hygiene|
|Dr. Peter and I treating a young boy|
We are blessed, however, through outside donations and a relationship with a local medical organization here in Burkina to be able to assist them in doing medical clinics for school children about once a quarter. A team of doctors and nurses and other volunteers supplied with rapid malaria tests, urine testing equipment, eye charts, stethoscopes, thermometers, and trunks and trunks of medicine, and a children’s program about hygiene come to serve these children. Many children at these clinics suffer with disease for months because their families cannot afford to spend the $1 for a consultation at the local nurses station, or the $10 or $15 maximum it might take to pay for medication. At the last set of clinics we saw almost two hundred children in two days and we collected 136 positive malaria tests (some of them were accidentally thrown away - so the final count was more than that).
|Some of the volunteers spelled the word Malaria with all the positive tests that we had left.|
I’d like you to meet one of the boys we saw.
Meet Saan-ba-ire (pronounced saw-n bah ee-day). He is seven years old. He lost his Dad when he was two and his Mom left him at his Dad’s brother’s house and moved to Ivory Coast. He has been living with his uncle ever since.
Are you sitting down? He is 7 years old and he weigh’s only 23 pounds. It makes you sick. I wonder if his uncle has ever danced around with him like I get to do with Dylan? I wonder what he feeds him. I wonder if anyone has ever delighted in him?
I’m not a medical professional, but I was fortunate enough to be used as an interpreter for the doctor in treating Saan-ba-ire. He had malaria like so many of the others, but his biggest problem was malnutrition. We prescribed vitamins and moringa powder. We had a sack of snacks with us because it was a very hot long day, so Dr. Peter reached in our snack bag and offered Saan-ba-ire a banana.
Bananas are available in every market in Burkina, but Saan-ba-ire, for seven years, has never been offered a banana. He didn’t know what to do with it. He started to bite it without peeling it and I had to show him how to eat it.
At first, I was shocked. I think about all the rich foods I eat on a regular basis and my culture with entire television programs dedicated to people who are eating themselves into an early grave, and then I think about this child who for seven years has lived around vitamin rich fruit like bananas, but has never been offered one once. It defies logic. It doesn’t even seem real.
Then my shock turned to anger at his mother for leaving him and at his uncle for neglecting him. I chastised him (to the extent that I could in a culturally appropriate tone) and told him he needed to do everything he could to get some vitamins in his nephew.
Then I watched my two very healthy boys run around and play at the clinic, and my anger turned to deep sadness. The difficulty is that there are millions of Saan-ba-ire’s in Burkina. Sometimes I wonder if we’re doing enough, and I think of the starfish analogy. You know the story where the adult laughs at the kid throwing starfish back into the ocean on a beach strewn with starfish? The adult tells the kid, “stop doing that and go play. You’re not making a bit of difference. Look at all these starfish.” And the kid says, “I’m making a difference for this one,” and he throws another starfish into the ocean. So, hopefully we made a difference with Saan-ba-ire on this day.
And then. . . then. . . sometimes I wonder wether we are any better than Saan-ba-ire’s uncle. He does almost nothing to take care of this child, but we also do almost nothing. Just because he’s closer to him does that make him any worse than we are?
Have you met any really poor people this week? If not, why not? What are you doing to help them feel more human? More alive? To let them know that you don’t think that you are better than them? How have you shown Jesus love to a poor person this week? I hope you've done so. If you have please share your story here. I understand not letting your left hand know what you’re right hand is doing, so if you want to leave a comment anonymously and even change the name of the person whom you helped to protect the (what shall we call it?) “seperate hands principle,” then do so, but please share your story. It would do my heart good to hear what’s going on that’s good for the poor.