Then there are things that my American-ness just revolts at. Things like the concept of training your child to smile and hold out their hand and say “money, give me” in English because you know I am more likely to give to a child. While I understand why they would do this, there are times when it works my nerves. Also, at times the audacity to harass people for money just does not sit well with me. Like I have said before, they don’t ask once and then leave, they will literally follow you begging all the way. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with that coming from a society that doesn’t know how to ask anyone for help. All of these above issues I don’t think made me feel this way in the first month here, but after encountering it day after day for three months, I think it begins to wear on you a little differently. I am not at all implying that I am handling the issue correctly, but just being embarassingly vulnerable with how some of these situations make me feel and my reactions to them.
As frustrated as I sometimes feel and as annoyed as I am at being constantly harassed, there are times when I wonder if one day I will be held to account for that person. Every time I turn down a person that is obviously in need who is asking me for money, I have to stop and wonder if when I get to heaven if Jesus is going to ask me why? I had and yet I didn’t give, how is that a reflection of Him? Sometimes I think my reason for giving should have nothing to do with them, but with what God is doing in my heart. I could give under compulsion to someone who is annoying me or I could give freely to someone who may or may not be taking advantage of me and still do it because it is what the Father tells me to do. Maybe the point is not based on the need or the principle, but on what the Lord is trying to teach me.
I think if I were still living in America and reading this, I probably wouldn’t understand why you wouldn’t just give or why it was such a big deal. But the truth is, did I help those less fortunate than me in America on a regular basis? No. I mean I gave to the church and I guess I did good deeds here and there and helped where needed, but in reality, my life was positioned in such a way that I never really had to look at the less fortunate, unless I happened to pass by them as I drove by in my car. I think it is easy to be in America and not understand how you couldn’t just give to those that are needy, yet we do it all the time when we position ourselves so that we don’t have to enounter the poverty that exists and therefore feel better about ourselves. I find myself trying to do the same thing here – to take a different street home so I don’t have to pass the beggars, or just not look at someone when I walk by them so I don’t have to see their poverty, or to find a myriad of other ways to justify why I shouldn’t have to be bothered by their pain and their suffering and not have to take it upon myself in any way. It seems that America or Africa, my tendency is the same. Fortunately or unfortunately, here it is almost impossible to always avoid poverty no matter which street you take, whereas in America it is relatively easy to not have to look poverty and pain and devastation in the face – well, it was for me anyway.