For most of my adult life, I have wandered the world. Over 30 years, I’ve seen the good in mankind. As a charity worker, I have also seen the very worst.
At the present, I live in the Philippines. Today I walked through a slum where hundreds of families live in poverty. The place was much larger than I expected it to be. Sadly, many of these areas exist within the city where I live. As I meandered down narrow walkways, there were small one-room homes made from cement block, alongside shacks crudely constructed out of ad-hoc pieces of wood, bamboo, and corrugated metal. These little shacks looked as if they might blow away with the next strong wind. There were spaces in many of the walls and roofs, exposed to rain and mosquitoes. The people living there had no choice but to use whatever could be cobbled together to build a place to live. There were women squatting outside their homes, cooking over small smoky coal-burning fires. Children ran by barefoot or wearing overly well-worn flip-flops.
I was reminded again that our world is broken.
My life passions have taken me to some shockingly awful places. I don’t need to convince most people that the world is broken, whether within the physical landscape or within our bodies and our souls. Not all bits are broken; however, we can agree the world is not as it should be, not as it originally was, and not how God intended it to be. We all are broken in one way or another.
This brokenness can be severe and constant for many people in our world who daily struggle to survive and eke out a living. Whether walking through the slums, holding a severely neglected and abandoned child living in an orphanage in China, running a home in India for at-risk children taken out of severe poverty, or organizing a summer camp for abandoned children in Mongolia; I’ve witnessed an incredible amount of this brokenness in my lifetime. It’s been humbling and difficult at times. Yet, in the midst, I’ve had the privilege of loving many and experiencing beauty in the most unexpected places and people.
As I strolled along the pathways of this slum area, the children running here and there all around me looked up and waved. A little boy paused from his hard work of shoveling cement to give me a big grin and a “hello.” Mothers on a street corner, bouncing their babies on their hips, called out greetings. As I turned and walked towards them, they proudly showed off their adorable little ones with smiles all around. A group of little boys wearing only their undies and no shoes on a dirt path stopped their game for a moment to smile in my direction. Not owning any toys, they enthusiastically played with small tree branches. I think they were make-believe pirates.
Watching the would-be pirates and unfortunately not watching where I was placing my feet, I ran squarely into the well-worn badminton racquet a young boy was swinging. The racquet connected with my head. Dropping his racquet, the boy immediately began saying, “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” His family, as well as neighbors who appeared out of nowhere, ran to my side to make sure I was okay. I embarrassingly told everyone that I was fine. There were smiles and waves as we all continued on. Another little girl on the path in a pretty, faded pink dress was singing to herself as she swung little sticks in circles like batons. When she saw me coming, she stopped and smiled. Amid the sadness of this place, people exist in the same way as people everywhere. They go on living; parents caring for their children, women cooking, families eating, and children playing.
Beauty resides there.
I am a “newbie” to the world of blogging, even to the world of writing. One reason I am starting this blog is an attempt on my part to focus on the beauty in the broken and to write it down. It’s like therapy for me.
In this world, there resides ugliness and beauty. To dwell on the ugly leads only to bitterness and our hearts grow ugly as well. It is a choice to look for the beauty. Sometimes it takes effort and intention. At times, it seems impossible to see the beauty of a situation, but well worth the effort.