Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why We Go.

     A year or so ago, a former classmate had a conversation with me regarding mission work in Rwanda.  He said something along the lines of "unless you are living there, aren't you really doing more harm than good?"  I have been haunted by this thought since.
     He isn't alone.  This is a common sentiment in my generation.  We want to empower people to help themselves.  We don't want to sweep in to "help," then leave again to return to our cozy lives stateside.  It's true too.  What good, really, is it for a well meaning group to just show up for a little window of time, build a house, paint a church, play with some kids, then leave again?
     I get it.  When people travel to developing countries do to projects, to give hand outs and "tour" the lives of the impoverished, it does hurt.  It's counterproductive to create a culture of reliance on handouts.  No one benefits long term in Africa, Central America or in the streets of America with this kind of service.  Of course we want to train people to care for themselves.  But what does not showing up at all really look like?
     Let me tell you the flip side of this thought for those that doubt.  I live with the results of not showing up, not caring and not investing in the lives of those children.
  • The flip side, when he is tired, he can't stand the feeling of his jeans on his tummy unless they are squeezing so tight that they cause skin breakdown.  The feeling of the threads of his socks leaves him on the floor in tears.
  • The flip side, he can't sleep all night without old memories creating havoc.  Without having a physiological response to fear when the lights are out and he is all alone.  That's what it looks like when we don't show up.
  • It looks like this child climbing on your husband's new coworker, inappropriately touching and cuddling with a stranger.  Any attention is attention, right?
  • Not showing up at all, it looks like that little brown eyed boy eating more food in than the rest of his family easily at every meal.  His little brain still, still, has doubts that there will be more food when he needs it.  That's what it looks like.
  • It looks like my sweet son closing his hand in the van door again and waiting calmly for me to open it to get his hand out. Without tears. 
     Doing nothing means that are thousands millions of children that don't get touched.  That don't have anyone look them in their eyes, count their toes, tell them they matter.  Those that argue for nature over nurture, I would venture to say are naive to what the lack of touch looks like in the rooms of an orphanage.  Did you know that those rooms are quiet?  The babies, they learn quickly that crying only uses energy.
     There isn't a numerical value for the time spent listening to a child, playing with them or just being present. If my son had been routinely rocked, snuggled and told that he was loved, I know without a doubt that the last three years of my live would have been very different.  
     And this is why we go.  Ryan and I know in our hearts and believe for our family that every moment matters.  

1 comment:

  1. Kara,
    Cindy Freemeyer encouraged me to contact you. My husband and I are in the process of adopting our nephew and nieces. We'd like to get them into counseling when they get to Omaha. Could you email me at chelsbick27@gmail.com. Thank-you! -Chelsea