A sea of Ethiopians sit across from the tables. One by one they come to us, the several nurses that assess their medical needs and direct them to appropriate clinics. In between patients, my eyes scan the faces–the people who wait patiently, almost reverently for free medical help. They cannot afford to pay for a normal clinic which costs 50 cents.
I gaze directly into their eyes as each approaches me. Some respond with downward glances, with humility, and sometimes shame.
This is my way of retaining human dignity. I tenderly touch shoulders and arms as I determine needs and take blood pressures and pulses. Unlike my Master, I inwardly recoil from the depravity before me… so many unclean hands and bodies, unbrushed teeth, unwashed clothes… open sores… so much disease and neglect… I stifle gag reflexes and silently pray to continue in the compassion of Christ. I feel so wicked, so removed from the plight of the poor.
I have a choice to press on in a bubble of aloofness or allow the depth of this poverty to penetrate my soul.
My forefathers worked hard to scratch out an existence that would enable our family to rise on the ladder of success, staving away this kind of poverty. But none of us can take pride in human triumph over anything.
Pride and injustice create lifestyles like these. But faith overcomes injustice. Faith and justice reside side by side. Injustice must be righted by those who believe.
Faith will die if injustice reigns.
The truth is that I live an inch away from this kind of degradation, except for the grace of God. My redeemer sees me as these — desperate, needy, stained.
I am broken.
I must not remain distant. I must embrace it, sweat in it, mingle in it. I must pass through the humility of the cross before Resurrection Day.
Clean and healthy bodies with new clothes do not lift the depravity of poverty and disease. To eat steak and lobster in pleasure and feel no pain or need to reach out to those who scour for nourishment from garbage is the worst kind of degradation there is.
The blood of God ran from the cross to all humankind. It is what brings life that propagates life with the kind of hope that lifts to new levels of living.
Soften my heart, oh God. Change me. Make me like you who stooped to lift me from the dung heap of self righteousness and self reliance. You didn’t recoil at my unclean state. You expressed your love in the most extravagant way to rescue me.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.”