Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hearts of Flesh

Got a hair cut yesterday, first one in months and months and months, which is why that hat makes so many frequent appearances here on the blog. I'm not even sure if the last haircut I got technically even "counts," as I paid $6 for it at a beauty school. The conversation I had with the stylist got me thinking about some things.

She asked me a lot of questions about our adoption, which she knew about through a mutual friend. I didn't mean to go on about it, but I find it difficult to talk about our trip to Ethiopia without mentioning the overwhelming need there right now. I saw her bristle a little when the subject came up, and I mentioned something about the topic being depressing and not meaning to make her uncomfortable.

She explained that she's a "bleeding heart," that she pretty much avoids any news about suffering in the world because she's afraid she'll simply come unglued. She said, "I don't even have a clue about what's going on in that Durfur (sic) place."

I'm not judging her. I can remember distinct times when I was in grad school and extremely busy with a job and 3 consecutive 12-hour semesters where I'd turn on the TV late at night, hoping for a half hour of Seinfeld or something and actually end up feeling irritated by the sight of gaunt-faced children in need of food, being held by someone like James Robison or Sally Struthers. It's not that I didn't care--it's that the situation felt overwhelming, and with the demands on my time during that part of my life, I didn't want to be faced with reality when I turned on the TV. I wanted Jerry and Elaine, Cosmo and George.

I'd quickly change the channel to bury my head in the sand. I didn't think I could take it. I'm not proud of these feelings I had.

So I'm really not judging the lady who cut my hair yesterday. I understand her impulse to choose oblivion. I've done it. It's just that something changes when you have seen those faces first-hand. They are no longer faces behind a TV screen. I've seen those faces before, talked with them, and played with those children. I think about them all nonstop now. I do feel overwhelmed by the poverty, the hunger, the need.

And here's what I come back to, over and over: During our time in Addis Ababa, we had a conversation with Belay (Gladney's in-country Superman) about this topic. He's a very quotable guy and told us something about how even Bill Gates couldn't afford to buy the whole world a steak dinner. And even if he could, the hungry would still be hungry the next day. He then explained that the need is overwhelming and that one person can't change it all. But what one person can do is take action where they feel their heart being pulled.

That's what I try to remember when the burden starts feeling really heavy. I don't want to bury my head in the sand. I don't want to choose oblivion. Like in the story of the Good Samaritan, I don't want to be the person who walks on by doing nothing.

So even if it feels that the money we give or the time we spend pulling our heads up out of the sand are not enough, rest assured that it'll never be enough. But it's something. It's something to the person our actions affect, and that's what matters. That and the reality that by letting ourselves be affected, our hearts remain flesh and not stone.

16 comments:

The Roberts Family said...

Thanks for this post, Lori. It is amazing how many opportunities we have now to help raise awareness, just by living our lives. We no longer just "blend in" to the woodwork, so to speak. People notice, they ask .... and you're completely right that we can't change EVERYTHING .... but we CAN, we MUST .... DO SOMETHING. True confession, I keep up with your blog, just wondering what the next season of the Rooney journey will be. :) Now show us a pic of your cute new do. :) ~Shelly

courtney rose said...

Here, here!

Anonymous said...

I understand this woman's sentiments somewhat. I do not put my head in the sand, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need in the world. I feel like I cannot know about one more thing. I already feel for certain places and people and try to do something but it is never enough. It can feel like there is no more room in this heart and I do not want to know about anything else because then I will feel compelled to do something about THAT when I can barely wrap my head around THIS. As Mark Pickerill and the famous philosopher Popeye would say "That's all I can stands. I can stands no more." Pattie

Amy said...

Lori, I feel as though I talk about the needs in Ethiopia often too. I feel so strongly about people doing something that I have actually had to apologize to some friends... friends who don't feel the things I feel and think I am judging them for not. Its been a hard thing for me to try and figure out how to talk about the new things that the Lord is doing in my heart... It is easy to talk about these things with others who feel the same way...
Anywho, I got your message and need to call you so we can chit chat about these things.

Ted and Lori said...

Amy and Pattie: you're both so right. It can feel overwhelming to hear about each new need and there are certain things that happen in the world that make me sigh and say, "Oh Jesus, when is it going to end?" I certainly don't want to guilt anyone into doing anything. I think Belay's point is just so true: find your niche, your place that pricks your heart, and invest there, whether that's Darfur, the boys in Jamaica, orphans in Ethiopia, earthquake victims in China...and on and on. Letting ourselves be moved is the big thing.

coffeemom said...

Lori, As ever, great post and great points. It CAN be so overwhelming and well, once you do allow yourself to open that door, that heart, it rends a hole that stays unfilled I think, in so many ways. But it's a grace to have that heart of flesh, a gift, and we are called to try, to do what we can and to respond where we can to those tiny urges of grace...it's just the painful awareness that is relentless and yet, so worth it adn really, do we really want to go back to not wanting to see??? Or do? or care? no. You make ripples in this world.....and they go on. Good stuff, well done, well said.

The Albertsons said...

Amen and amen.
Sometimes people don't feel ready to go and to see, but most of us in America have at least ten bucks to pass along. Even ten bucks can make a difference in the life of a starving child. Even if people get annoyed by how much we might talk about the situation, or by how much we beg for help... well, what's the alternative? Our silence? One thing I've always said to myself, especially after offending some uncle or some neighbor by the fact that we raised money to adopt: "I'd much rather offend you 1000 times then not help a person who needs my help." It's totally worth it, and totally necessary. So bravo. Keep it up, my friend.
love
becca

Jocelyn said...

I was just talking to Kerri tonight about what organization I want to focus on to keep myself connected to Ethiopia...we talked about how I want to do the most I can for as many people as possible. What this post made me realize is no matter what I do, it is SOMETHING and that is what is important. Thanks for writing this.

Jennifer and Jody said...

Like the starfish story (can't save them all, but it means something to that one)...or what we commonly encounter doing dog rescue when we foster and pull a dog from death row, the exasperated person saying "Jennifer, you can't save them all", well, yes, but we saved this one. Isn't that worth something? Of course it is. I agree with you totally, while it is easy to stick your head in the sand I just can't do it...nor do I want to. Anything we do for any other being on this earth is worth it. It is SOMETHING.
I heart your posts.... :)

J & A said...

Thanks so much for the post...we had a speaker in church on Sunday that actually talked about the number of orphans in Africa. I felt so overwhelmed and cried for several hours. I think we all struggle to find the place where we can make a difference. I feel so fortunate that God is working in my life.

Danni and Tommy said...

Thanks for this post- it's a good one.

neola said...

I want to repeat what I told you before: You are doing the most important thing I really believe you can possibly do and that's telling someone about it (or in this case, tellings lots of someones). Thank you for keeping the information out there.

Stacie said...

Lori - great post - well said, as always. I think it can be overwhelming (or I know it can be), but I'm trying to realize that by doing something that I think is small, I can hopefully affect others to also do something small, and then the effect becomes big. (In my abstract world.) Anyway, I appreciate your words and your encouragement - it truly is a 'chance' to do something - we are offered 'chances' to make a difference and we should grab hold of those, regardless if we think the 'something' might be small. (Oh, sorry, long comment!)

Lori said...

Ditto (it's a cop out to say, but it sums up my feelings on this entire topic)! It's overwhelming!

Anonymous said...

Lori, you don't know me but I found your blog through Danni&Tommy. My name is Jerrie and I work with Tommy and I'm Judah's No. 1 Groupie :).

Anyway, your post reminds me of this story: There was a young boy who spent summers at the shore with his grandparents. Every morning he would go down to the beach and play in the surf.

One morning he got down there only to find that thousands and thousands of starfish had washed ashore during the night. As quickly as he could, he began running across the beach picking up one starfish after another and tossing them back into the ocean in an effort to save them.

Not far off, a fisherman watched the boy. After a time the man yelled to the boy, “Why are you wasting your time? You’ll never save them all. It doesn’t matter.”

The boy stopped, looked at the man and then at the starfish in his hand and back at the man. The boy shrugged his shoulders. “It matters to this one,” he said as he tossed it into the water and continued with his task.

That’s the end of the story but in my imagination, the fisherman begins to help the boy. Then the grandparents, coming to find the boy for lunch, begin helping, too, and so many more starfish are saved. And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Lori. When faced with the devastation of Katrina, and the overwhelming need resulting from the MS Gulf Coast being suddenly catapoulted into a third world country (I am sorry if the comparrison is offensive, but if you didn't see it first hand, you just don't know - it was!) this kept coming to my mind: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time". And this is how we meet the overwhelming needs. God has given each of us a gift, and I believe our hearts go out to those needs that our gifts can somehow meet. And along the way, we can find ways to meet other needs that perhaps are outside your "mercy focus". Example, and I don't say this to boast, but to encourage: We sponsor 11 yo Sidia Nigalaso in Nambia through World Vision. She is receiving education, medical services, etc. because of our commitment to her. We have done this for 4 years, and plan on being her "American Family" until she doesn't need us anymore. This is "summer reading" season. Instead of buying new books, we are buying through BetterWorld.com to support literacy in Africa. There are TONS of ways Americans can help. And don't forget, America gives more than any other nation to other nations in need. To whom much is given, much is required.
So go take your bite out of that elephant! Thanks for keeping the need in front of us, Lori! LY! CindyCinMS