I was just like them
Let our present experience inform our future worldview.
This unique moment of history in which we now find ourselves, where things are grinding to a halt – children home from school, businesses shuttered, and so many feeling fear and uncertainty – has given many of us a new experience. People are now confronting the feeling that everything we count on today is unstable, and could disappear or change unpredictably in the coming weeks. There is panic about the availability of food and basic necessities, and fear concerning the potential accessibility of medical care. But, now more than ever, we must remember that such a great number of people all across the world live with this type of instability and desperation almost every day of their entire lives. And to a much greater degree.
Last year, when I visited some outlying rural villages in Bong and Nimba Counties, I saw these beautiful little children. Most of them were suffering from malnutrition, parasites, and scabies. Almost none of them had on shoes or even pants. They were playing and eating in the dirt where chickens and other animals also lived. Most of them would never attend school regularly and hardly any of them would finish secondary school. Their mothers were caring for them the best that they could. And as children always are, they were happy and smiling and playful.
As I stood watching them play and spoke to their families, my Liberian friend Viola looked at them with such love and sadness in her eyes. I knew that her heart, like mine, was breaking. I asked if she was OK, and she turned to me and said, “All they need is care,” and the tears welled up in her eyes. “The reason I have so much love for them,” she said, “is because once, I was just like them.”
“Once, I was just like them.”
This simple statement moved me so much. This great woman, who had empowered and educated so many – who was a strong, respected leader in her community – was once a dirty little child who could have died of a common illness in a remote village.
Two important questions struck me in that instant. How did she rise above? And did this mean that those children could grow into strong, healthy leaders one day, just like her? In her adolescence, Viola left her hometown and was placed in a Mission, where she remained until adulthood. She was educated, cared for, and protected – so that she did not have to live with the daily anxieties of hunger, illness, and poverty.
Because of the love and care she received, this remarkable woman was empowered to grow into a leader who would return to care for others who needed it.
She gave to those in need because when she looked at them, she saw herself.
As we experience just the smallest sense of the anxiety and instability that some live with all their lives, let us remember just how connected we all are. Let us remember the words of our Lord, who said “I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
We pray that Lydia House will be a place where children like these can find peace, protection, and stability; so that one day, they may lead others to freedom and strength.