We entered our first town in Guatemala to the smiling faces and clapping hands of sponsored children. They greeted us with an expectation only children are capable of. Taking each of us by the hand, they lead us to a tiny, shaded area they had decorated just for us. We would sit in their presence and listen to them sing, watch them dance, and hear their stories.
I felt out of place, uncomfortable with the way they celebrated us as if we were the heroes and they weren’t. The week was young and I had yet to find my footing, to recognize what it was that created such joy in people who have so little. I watched them celebrate and I pondered their lives. I wondered where they lived. I wondered what they had and what they didn’t. Electricity? Running water? Food? I was surrounded by lives I couldn’t comprehend, lives I had no way of identifying with. It seemed to me as if the only thing we shared was our humanity. They were created by God, just like me. They were loved by God, just like me. A question began to form in my mind that afternoon. I tried to push it away, to leave the question unasked and, more importantly, unanswered. But it was there, I knew it was. Is my love for God, I began to wonder, just like theirs?
Before we knew it, we were being ushered to tables for lunch. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more humbling than being served a beautiful meal by people who know what hunger really is. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and for the first time in my life, I knew what His disciples must have felt.
I am not worthy.
As the afternoon drifted along, I walked to the edge of a small expanse of grass. It ended at a fence, leaving me with a view of the neighborhood below.
Below me was a scene that took my breath away, an image of poverty I had only before witnessed on television. Directly in front of my eyes was a reality I could not comprehend. These beautiful people, the ones who welcomed me and fed me, lived in conditions I could not fathom. I stood on that hillside and for the first time I swallowed the lump in my throat.
I stared at these homes that were nothing more than shacks in the dirt, each one of them the broken reality for a family. A family of how many? Two? Three? Eight? In time I would get to meet some of these families, a chance to visit their homes. I didn’t know it then, as I stood on that hillside beside my dad, but the people who live in homes such as these have a grasp upon something I do not. For a week, they would be my teacher. And I would fall in love with each and every one of them.
It was on this hillside, overlooking a cross so many must bear, when my heart started to break. It was my first moment, the first time God allowed me to see so clearly beyond myself and into the life of another. I looked below and saw him, the boy in blue. His image, his world, and his reality were painted forever onto the canvas of my mind.
I could not take my eyes off of him. He sat quietly in the doorway of his home, one hand slowly rocking the wooden, slatted door that served no purpose I could imagine. It was, however, the front door to his home. Our homes are our protection. We lock our front doors at night, protecting us from the world beyond. The child that I saw that afternoon, sitting alone and watching the world move about around him, would sleep that night with the protection of a flimsy, slatted, worthless door. Not even the weather could be held at bay.
I watched this child and I wondered what chance he has at life. Where will the years take him? I realized that day that our birth is a lottery. I was born in the United States. I grew up wanting for nothing. I didn’t deserve that blessing and I certainly didn’t earn it. I watched this child and wondered what thoughts must fill his mind. What worries does he carry? What hope does he cling to? What are his dreams?
The boy in blue was born into poverty. The struggles he must endure and the obstacles he must face are so far beyond that which I could possibly understand. I stood there with a helpless, breaking heart. I don’t deserve the blessings I have.
Every day since, I have thought about that boy. Where is he today as I type these words? He and I are the same in so few ways. We were born upon the same earth. We were created and loved by the same God.
The boy in blue taught me a lesson on that hillside in Guatemala by showing me the one similarity we have that I could not deny. I didn’t deserve what was given to me the day I was born. And for reasons only God could possibly know, he didn’t either.