Probably because of my faith and my own impoverished origins, I have always cared for the poor and marginal. Positively because of my leaning and learning, I have always carried an inquiring mind about the way things are.
This means that I always wonder if things can change for the poor and marginal and took Jesus’ words’ that the poor will always be among us not as a resignation to a tragic reality of human existence, but as a challenge to alleviate the suffering in some form or way, ideally by eradicating the roots that sustain systemic suffering.
Yet I am not essentially an activist.
Because one day, when I was given the chance to travel to a land I had read about, prayed for, and dreamed of visiting, I was stymied and stuck at the chasm between the lives my sisters and I lived.
I wonder if this is how others have felt too. To go from a first-world country to a third world facing war, displacement, torture, oppression, persecution, and injustice…
What exactly does it do? Why do we want to do it? How are we perceived? Does it help, them or us?
On that trip, more than a decade ago, I found myself wondering what I could possibly bring. There was nothing in my experience that could inform me of what my sisters were going through. What hardship, poverty, and political turmoil I knew paled in contrast to what these women have endured and will continue to endure.
Yet I stepped into a room where these women, who have traveled, some for a day or two by train, looked back at me with expectancy. I just wanted to cry and apologize, for how unfair life can get.
But my tears will not serve them, they are best shed for my own cleansing, to rid myself of my presumption, pride, and persistent entitlement.
These women were not looking to have my life. They are more sensible than that. We, the well-off are usually the ones making this mistake, so enamored by our privileges and comforts. As Ugandan bishop Zac Niringiye put it, the poor aren’t the problem, our greed is.
I do not get why these women wanted to hear from me. I needed to have my feet washed by them, to be fed by their tears and held by their sinuous arms that know what it means to carry love through long nights of…