Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Discomfort

Since I got back from Ethiopia I have been in a funk. Can't really explain it, or express my feelings and thoughts about it, because I don't really understand it all.

Much of it I write off to the burdens and stress of my life right now, which is just a temporarily abnormal amount. It will go away with time.

But one of the issues I know I have been stewing on (I am a crock pot kind of guy) is my reaction to Ethiopia, to Addis Ababa, to Layla and to AHOPE. I still can't put my finger on it and really talk about it, but today I read a post by a family who is adopting from Liberia, and who spent 5 weeks there. Even through my fog of understanding this jumps out as clear as day and shouts TRUTH.

So go to The Isaac's Liberian Journey and check out an honest assessment of what it is like to be an American in Liberia, or Ethiopia for that matter.

Even my trip, which I considered minimalistic - staying at the guest house, eating at local restaurants and Layla, and time spent with the kids just wasn't the real thing. I still felt calloused and hardened and utterly without compassion - so far from what I think it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

I specifically remember sitting in the seat of the van with Marta stopped for traffic as we drove through the city. That is when the beggars would come to the windows, and plead for something. I don't know what they were asking for in Amharic, food, or money I assume, but I do know that as I sat there with my daughter, I wanted more than anything for her to know that the heart of her father was good. I sat there with hundreds of US dollars in my pockets so we could eat, and shop, and take things we don't need home with us - so uncomfortable - wondering what her thoughts of the situation and of me were.

I went to Ethiopia, but I made sure to cushion myself and my daughter from reality there. I really do love the people, but I have no idea what their life is really like. I tease Marta all the time about relinquishing me some minor percentage of Habesha status. She relentlessly shakes her head and says no, I am 100% ferenge. She is right.

6 comments:

owlhaven said...

Hi Rich, I linked to you on my Ethiopia blog...

Mary

linzi said...

hey,

regarding beggers.... don't feel bad about not giving them anything... that kind of issue is much more complex than giving some dollars. In India, as well as many other countries with many poor people, beggers are often run by a "begger master" and have to pay him off large somes of what they earn a day. In that way, giving them money, etc, is only continuing this cycle of begging, without necessarily helping the hungry-looking person at the window. If you real want to do some good, continue to do what you are doing, discuss the children being helped, look at NGOs and other organizations that help poor children and families,etc, and donate there.

I know it is difficult, I had the same feelings in India. Instead of giving them money, sometimes I would carry fruit like bananas to give to the kids, but mostly I tried to volunteer somewhere that works with street kids, etc and help that way.

But it is always hard to think of the priviledged life we grew up in in America as opposed to those growing up in the majority of the countries around the world. I just think, if I use the resources I have, to help them, then, maybe someday this imbalance won't exist anymore...

Jenn said...

thanks for daring to write out your funk. we experienced something similar when we spent time in asia. it's difficult to put words to what we felt. it did give us insight into who we are to the rest of the world. it was certainly uncomfortable. there was a pull to beat up on ourselves. somehow one has to take the knowledge of who we are and how we appear to others in the world and turn it into something constructive. {sigh} it's tough.

richlisad said...

I agree Jen. I don't mean this to be so much self abuse as self awareness and to change my world view.

Thanks for the comments.

Brian said...

I agree that I'm not sure that helping beggars is the answer (since its a stop gap measure at best and could be encouraging poverty at worse).

I really like agencies likekiva.org who partners with agencies that give out microloans to people in developing nations. You can be the lender and thus increase their pool of available funds. Last time I checked, they weren't working in Ethiopia, but there were borrowers in other African nations.

Jenn said...

i can absolutely see that you are not berating yourself. that you (and all of us) become aware i think is the greatest step. you already are being the change you want to see in the world. (paraphrased from Ghandi). we need one of you on every block in this country. looking forward to seeing where your evolving world view takes you and your family.