Journey to Neighbor
By Dave Quintana
Journey into the
It’s a journey spent following other people and also a journey, I believe,
following Christ into the darkest places. I so vividly recall Jodean leading
me under the bridge alongside a trash-filled, polluted trickle to where
“the bridge people” live. The “houses” (well, little rooms with cardboard
and sheet-metal “walls”) get smaller and smaller, darker and darker, and
smellier/hotter and smellier/hotter as we continue the tour to their endpoint.
This is their life. This is all they have. Life on the streets, and a “home”
under the bridge. I can’t help but ponder, “Does anyone even realize they
are here? Does anyone even care?”
He Cares House for street boys in Manila
Luigi was one of my housemates for a week in a household for streetboys. When we asked him what his favourite kind of food was his response was an obvious one to him, but a shocking one to me, “Food that’s not rotten.” Fair enough – I suppose if there are two different kinds of food, rotten and not rotten, my favorite food would be the not rotten kind.
Mia, or “Princesa” as I called her because of her beautiful smile, was bed-ridden for life (which will be short) in a Missionaries of Charity hospital. Engaging in eye contact with her seemed to make “soul contact” in a heart-breaking way.
Outside on the street there was the no-armed beggar, tapping relentlessly on the window for money. He was just one of countless, nameless faces in desperate need of help. Should I walk by them without looking? Should I give them a peso? Should I give them 20 pesos? Should I give them all the money I have?
Anawim is a home for abandoned elderly started by a friend with “an open mind and a broken heart” and cares for 60 or so lolos (old men) and lolas (old women) who have no one to care for them. Gilbert who arrived the same day I did at the He Cares House was in a care accident when he was 24 and has been in a wheelchair ever since. How can he smile and laugh so? He was a music major and somehow still has a song in his heart.
Payatas is a squatter area where thousands of families make their living scavenging the dump, scouring the rubbish in search of something worth selling or something worth eating. How am I to respond to this?
And of course there are the kids on every major corner, every day and every night. They do whatever they can and whatever they have to just to earn a few pesos. They are survivors. They are fighters. Do they have much hope? Jodean from He Cares Foundation thinks they do.
The great “cloud
And these words of an unknown witness always cut me to the heart, “forgive us Lord for looking at the world with dry eyes.”
along the way?
It is clearer to me now that those of us who have much are just stewards of this resource. As someone once said, “It’s not that we don’t have enough, but that we don’t effectively get it into the hands of the right people.”
I’m also seeing more clearly that:
• old people mainly need someone to listen to them and share in their storyAnd in all of this I sense a personal invitation from the Lord to press further up and further in. It could be said that as a man who’s dedicated his life to serving the Lord full time and is living “single for the Lord” in an ecumenical missionary brotherhood I've given up much. But I sense the journey is just beginning. The Lord is inviting me to join him in the “wilderness of compassion” and to seek out the lost.
Street kids in Quezon City, Manila
Might there not be ways that I could share more of what I have with others? What would my life be like if I lived on ten percent less? (Is this an inspiring or terrifying thought?) Could I engage in some “unplugging experiments” from the materialistic, noise-filled existence that is modern life? Might I for a time apply a “luxury tax” on myself – whenever I buy something for myself I buy something for someone in need? Are there possibilities for “creative collaboration” where I and others who “have” can come alongside those who “have not”?
Doing some reading and reflection both personally and in a study group has been an important part of my journey. Among other fine books I’d highly recommend:
• Simplicity, Love and Justice (BESOM)Speaking of Richard Foster, here are some challenging suggestions (“reachable handles”) from him on how to benefit more from simplicity:
• buy things for their usefulness not their statusAnd here are his guidelines for giving:
• give proportionately, beginning with a titheBon voyage!
“Less for self, more for others, enough for all.” What a great motto Gawat Kalinga has – an organization in the Philippines that helps the poor with housing, education, health, and employment. I haven’t arrived there for sure, but I am at last commencing the journey. I know I can’t do much, but I can do something, so I close with this poem:
I am only one, but I am one.A young man named Erik Weihenmayer reached the summit of Everest on 25 May, 1999. Quite an accomplishment – especially since he is blind. Some time later while speaking of his daughter’s birth he said, “there are summits everywhere, you just have to know where to look.” I agree.
I often feel like a blind climber in search of the summit. Often for us followers of Christ the summit is a dark and lowly and difficult place.
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