I've been in the Philippines now for less than 48 hours, and already I've seen beautiful sunsets, bustling shopping centers, half-starved begging children and cardboard-shack houses. My parents' Bible School is on a gorgeous compound nestled against a low-income neighborhood. To get to their place, we drive on a winding road weaving between open sewers and little kids playing without shoes. It's been a while since I've seen poverty like this. We have desperately poor people in the United States too - there are huge amounts of American children considered to be going hungry every year, but that's simply no comparison to what it is like in more developing countries.
As we were loading our luggage into the car at the Philippine airport, we were accosted by a sweet little boy about the size of Theo. I would estimate he was probably around 6-7 years old, perhaps even older. His breastbones were jutting out of his too-large shirt, and as he held out his hand, he asked us for food. Not for money, but for food. He looked hungry. Really hungry.
I got out Theo's puffed rice cereal from the plane and gave it to the boy. When Theo saw this happening, he started crying because HE wanted to eat the cereal. And then the boy asked for more. A local guard noticed the commotion and came to gently shoo the child away, and as we got into the car I tried to get Theo to stop crying as I explained why we gave his cereal away. I told Theo how I could buy or make him food when he was hungry, but some kids don't have any food because their parents don't have money to buy any, or the kids simply don't have any parents at all. Upon hearing this, Theo cried harder, wanting to buy more food and give it to all the hungry kids.
But first he wanted his cereal back.
I think sometimes we're all a bit like Theo. We want to help when we see people who are hungry or in need of medicine or shelter, but we also don't want to have to give up what we already have. We're more than happy to buy lunch for someone who needs it, but who wants to give up the lunch they've been planning on eating themselves? We're fine with donating money when we have a little surplus in our budget, but what about when it's something we've been counting on personally using? We're a bit more reluctant. That kind of giving often costs us more than we're willing to part with.
One of the things I love so much about the Christian story is that God is shown throughout human history to be a generous giver. He doesn't just give us a small minutiae out of his surplus. Instead, God gives us his all. He offers us His wounds for our healing, His death for our resurrection, His life for our life. And when we finally come home after a lifetime in a faraway land, He kills the fatted calf he's been saving to throw us a party. That's some kind of God.
I'm logging off now to buy some cereal and snacks. A LOT of them.