Over the weekend I became completely overwhelmed by the needs I see everyday.
The need has been right in front of my face and I have stood there wondering how in the world it is possible to meet them all. Where do you start? How do you alleviate the pain? How do you bandage a wound so it heals completely instead of putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound? How do you turn away when the needs are staring at you right in the eyes? How do you not get frustrated when you want to meet the needs but in actuality you are only putting on that small bandage?
For days these thoughts have consumed my mind.
It all started Friday afternoon when we pulled up at a local bakery to grab a piece of fresh, hot bread.
As we parked the bike I saw two older women sitting across the street each holding a small child. By the time we got off the bike and were standing at the bread counter a little girl was right beside us. I knew she would be there. I knew the older women had seen two white girls pull up at the bakery and had sent her over there to us. She stood by my side using her hands to slowly motion for food. While waiting on our order I asked her what her name was. Nothing. No words. Just the continuous movement of her hand from her side to her mouth showing me she wanted food. She didn’t want to communicate. She didn’t want to tell me who she was. She only wanted food. We handed her the bag of bread and watched her run across the street to the two older women.
I truly wanted to buy this little girl and her family bread. In the moment that’s what she wanted. But she needs so much more than that. I wasn’t able to give her anything substantial. I gave her a piece of bread. I’m sure it lasted a total of two minutes. And then there she was again, sitting on the street corner needing more food. Along with a home. And money. And a job. In reality I helped her for two seconds. But nothing lasting came from it.
You may want to disagree and say that in the moment I gave her what she needed. But that’s not completely true. I am certain of this because as the little girl delivered the bread to her family and we walked back to the bike the older lady was right by our side asking for money. The bread wasn’t all they needed. The needs are plentiful. I was trying to put a band-aid on a gunshot wound. And we all know that just simply doesn’t work.
Less than twenty-four hours later I was sitting on the dock dangling my feet above the water watching kids splash around and play in the bay. They were laughing. I was laughing. It was fun to see them enjoying themselves so much!
But as we sat there being entertained by the little boys and girls, a woman and her two children walked up. Their clothes were tattered. Their hands were dirty. They begged for food.
And the thoughts from the day before came racing back into my mind. How can I actually help this family?
The little boy drew my attention the most. He was shy and trying to hide behind his mother. But at one point she pushed him towards me so he would ask for food. As he stood there timid and looking afraid I noticed the shell of a plastic toy car in his hand. I wanted to play with him. I wanted to see him smile like the other boys and girls jumping around in the water below us. I tried asking him what he was holding. I asked if it was a car. I asked if he wanted to play with the car. A blank stare. No words. No smile. Definitely no laugh. Just the look of empty eyes staring at me. I tried showing him how to roll the car on the ground and make car noises with him. Still nothing. No movement or actions. Still no words.
Leah walked up with bananas for the family and they quickly accepted them and walked away. Just like that they had food in their hands and they were gone.
In the moment they needed food. But what about in five hours when it’s meal time again for everyone else? Or what about in twelve hours when it’s time for everyone else to go to sleep? Or what about the next morning when it’s time for everyone else to take a shower and change clothes? Or what about the same time tomorrow when everyone else is at work? What do they do then? What good is a banana when they need a place to sleep and a job and money for the next meal?
How do you fix the real problem not just the momentary need? As Leah and I stood on the edge of the pier watching the sunset I just didn’t get it. I had the incredible opportunity of watching God create an array of colors in the sky while they are out there fighting for survival from moment to moment. It didn’t make sense to me then. And it doesn’t make sense to me now.
How do I go from putting a band-aid on the gunshot wound to removing the bullet and properly bandaging the wound to where it heals completely?