I’ve been doing humanitarian work for as long as I can remember. I recall quite vividly seeing the music video for “We are the World” back in 1985. I was only 7 years old. I’ve always been a music enthusiast, even at that age, and I was irrevocably moved by what I saw in that video. Here were all of the people I admired, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Bob Geldof, etc, fighting for people on the other side of the world. It was my first exposure to “Africans”. These little Ethiopian children (this was during the famine in
Why is it always “us” and “them”? Most people would say they believe in justice and equality, but few actually practice it, or even realize it’s something they have anything to do with. What would you do if your daughter, niece, or cousin was being sexually abused and you found out about it? I would imagine you’d do just about anything, even things you never dreamed you were capable of, just to stop this atrocity from happening. What if it was a little girl in your church or school? She was having her innocence stripped from her and nothing was being done about it. There would be an outrage, right? What if it was a little girl that lived in the ghetto near your city? And what if it was a little African girl? Really think about it. Where is your mind going? Do you feel yourself detaching? Can you start to feel your mind removing yourself from the responsibility of helping this innocent child? Now ask yourself how far removed from you she has to be for you to not care anymore? My guess is that once she’s removed from your immediate sphere of influence, she’s not your problem anymore. She becomes a “them”.
The problem is that people, Americans in particular, don’t even want to know the truth of what surrounds them. The term “ignorance is bliss” is no joke. We’ve become quite skilled at removing ourselves from the responsibility of loving our neighbors as ourselves. We become consumed by our everyday “needs”, which in most cases are not needs at all; they are simply worldly desires. If I had a picture of a little blond haired, blue eyed girl from your church and said she was being beaten, you would be angered. You’d want to stop it. You’d even feel responsible for stopping it simply because you now have knowledge of it. But if I hold up a picture of a little 7 year old girl from Rwanda that has been sold into prostitution in order to provide food for her AIDS infected mother and three sickly siblings, you’d likely cringe a little and say something like, “that’s just horrible and I can’t believe that is happening”. And you’d be correct because you really CAN’T believe its happening. It’s not even reality for you. If we really believed African’s are equal to Americans, the every day atrocities of
But we are all human. That includes all the people that the
If you consider yourself to be a caring, compassionate person that is searching for a way to help others; I would encourage you first to address the issue of “us and them”. People are always trying to figure out what “issue” they are going to get involved with or fight for. Don’t choose an issue. Choose people. What people are you going to fall in love with? What people will you choose to believe are just the same as you? They could be right down the street or in the shanty towns of
When we talk about HIV, poverty, corruption and all of the other “African” issues, people very quickly think, “those are huge problems”, “we will never actually fix those issues”, “there is nothing I can do to stop HIV”, or any other number of hopeless proclamations. You can find a ton of great reasons to remove yourself from any responsibility in the situation. Or you may think that Bono and Bill Gates are already on it, so no worries; everything’s going to be ok. And that’s just the kind of thinking that are making all of those doubts become a reality. Imagine if all of us believed that we could make a difference, and that we could do it by simply realizing that it’s not us and them. We are together. The next time you see a picture of a starving little African child, or a bum on the street, spend some time imagining that person as your own daughter, sister, or friend. And know that they are. Believe it. We must first change the way our minds think before we can expect to change the world. But it’s happening every day. You just have to decide if you’re going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no in-between. There is no in-between.
The poor, no matter what natinality, are not inanimate objects. Remember, she’s your daughter, your niece, your neighbor. She’s not an “African”. She’s not a statistic. She’s not a picture on the Compassion International commercial. She’s a little innocent girl. She even has a name.