Tuesday, August 16, 2011

4000 Dead Kids

When I feel like writing in response to the message on Sunday, it's indication to me that I'm where God wants me. When I write in response to what I've seen on the Oprah show, I know it can be perceived as simply being sucked in by popular culture.

I don't watch Oprah that often. I admire her work in Africa and I think in general she tries to make this world a better place. I don't always agree with her opinions or methods. Last week I had the opportunity to see an episode in which Oprah interviewed a couple that had suffered the horrific loss of their three children ages 5, 4 and 2 in a traffic accident. I sat there stunned and entered into the pain that this couple felt upon the death of their three precious kids. The camera panned the audience and the tears were flowing from everyone's eyes. I imagined mothers and fathers nationwide viewing the show and also being moved to tears by this tragic situation. I listened to Oprah's guests speak about how devastating it was to "walk through the pain." They praised family and friends for supporting them in the midst of their grief. But they still felt very much alone. Only the afflicted mother and father knew the extent of the sorrow caused by coming home to a house drowning in silence.

Then in typical Michelle fashion my mind strayed to another thought. That morning I had read in my Compassion Advocate's magazine that UNICEF estimates that over 4000 children die everyday from water-borne diseases. 4000 DEAD KIDS. Everyday.

Now I was angry. Why was I crying for three kids when thousands die needlessly everyday? How many parents everyday watch their children die from a preventable cause? How many tears is that? How many people across the world sit and suffer as their children are snatched away by the lack of clean water? Where's the heartbreak for that America? Why don't we fix this? Why don't we really care? We don't care because these children are not at the center of our lives.

If my neighbor's children were dying because their water was shut off and the kids were drinking out of the dirty stream in the park down the road, I would gladly give them my clean water. If my neighbor's child was dying of dehydration and they could not get her to a hospital, I'd drive them in a heartbeat. If my neighbor's child had diarrhea I'd offer medicine and some pedialyte. I'd do something. So would you. But who is my neighbor?

The story of the Good Samaritan was the central theme for the lesson I taught with the Hope Lives curriculum last week and the week before. The children had a pretty good grasp on the fact that Jesus asks us to consider everyone our neighbor. We aren't supposed to walk on by. We are supposed to love our enemies (or those we consider worthless)...even if it costs us something.  Do we consider those 4000+ kids per day worthless? If we include all preventable causes, the number of children dying is a lot higher. The UNICEF website says that 22,000 children die per day from preventable causes. Per day. It's really too much to take in.

We cry over three blond-haired, blue-eyed children. They capture our heart because they are brought to our attention by the Oprah show. We watch the home videos, see the family photos, and imagine that these could have been our kids. We sob and then rejoice as we learn that the grieving parents were given a miracle. Almost exactly one year after the accident, they had triplets.

On Sunday we were challenged to make a meaningful connection with a global ministry partner. Our pastor named that I am a "champion for Compassion International." I have to admit that it feels good to be acknowledged as someone who loves Compassion and what they do to help end poverty in Jesus' name. At the same time I'm convicted that I am still a part of the world's richest 10%. We are the most self-centered people on the planet. We have much and share relatively little. In the USA alone we spend billions on scrapbooking. Every moment of our lives we document, capture, and photoshop, but we really don't think about those millions of parents who have never even had the opportunity to take a picture of their child. Our priorities are out of whack and out of touch with what the majority of the world experiences.

It's not wrong to cry for three children killed in a car crash. But it is wrong to forget about the 4000 children that die from lack of clean water every day. It's wrong to disregard the feelings of those parents who have watched their children lie half-dead on the side of the road beaten up by preventable causes in Africa, Asia, The Middle East, Central America, and South America as we walk on by like a priest or a levite.

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