Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Pair of Shoes

I do not consider myself poor, but I work basically a blue collar job now, not that there is anything wrong with that. I come from a long line of army grunts, tradesmen, and grease monkeys. Sometimes, I look back at the life I have had and the choices I have made and wish I had a job that paid a bit more, or that I had enough money to own this or that big ticket item. I think most people probably have moments like that at some point in their lives from time to time. Americans always want more stuff. It's just a part of our culture for good or for bad (probably mostly bad.)

As some of you may know, I do some freelance work for a small orphanage/children's ministry in Uganda. It is a long story, but basically a friend I know runs it out of the goodness of her heart. She takes in kids she largely finds in her neighborhood outside of Kampala. She can tell you some heart breaking stories about some of these kids. She found one living in some tires in basically a city dump, having been abandoned by whatever parent for whatever reason. There are no Department of Family social services to speak of in Uganda, and there are no public schools. If you want to go to school, you have to pay for it at a private institution. Combined with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the cycle of poverty is truly harsh.

There is a kid in the neighborhood there that is not one of the actual kids that the ministry cares for. My friend, Joy, who runs the charity orphanage describes him as someone who just "hangs around" the ministry compound. The kid lives in a shack with his grandmother. (When I say "shack," I mean I have a small tool shed in my backyard that looks like a mansion compared to this shack.) This kid  has no idea who his mother is/was. To make a long story short, his basically non-existent father is apparently a real winner. He liked to hang around the ministry compound to be around Joy's husband, who was about the only functional adult male the boy knows. 

I sponsor a child to go to school at this ministry, and it was her birthday last week. I had sent some extra money for a birthday present. I had forgotten that a scant $30 (I have spent more than that on a video game) in Uganda can buy an incredible amount of bare necessities, and so Joy had asked if she could use a bit of that money to buy this local boy a pair of shoes, of which he had apparently never owned a pair in his entire life.

One would think I had gotten the kid a new IPad or a Playstation 4. In fact, she told me on Facebook, "That little man meant business like he didn't want anyone close to his the other kids wanted to touch them and get the feel😀"

Yeah, sometimes you feel poor, but then you realize Americans live better than 99% of the human history across time. We have things that Edward Bellamy in Looking Backwardwhich was published in 1888, could only dream about in his Utopian novel of the time period (the 3rd best selling book in the Victorian era). For example, getting instant music by pushing a button. Even the Roman Emperors of old did not have access to such luxuries. Ironically, people never get the irony that "utopia" comes from the Greek word for "no place."

Sometimes, I feel like America truly is a no place. A place where we delude ourselves with our amusements and money, blissfully unaware that people exist in the world who have literally never owned a pair a shoes, and when they do get a pair, they guard them like a gold bar at Fort Knox.

Don't live in a no place. Live in a real place.

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