The child who lifted up a corner of my life and upended me was born on Remembrance Day and I am now three thousand miles away and two time zones to the east and how can I forget?
It was her eyes. Bright, like dawn breaking, a light flooding over me living in the land of the shadow of death.
How many times just this week do I flip through the photos of those twenty minutes that document the intersecting of our lives? I had crashed. Split my heart wide open to another world — the mangled one begging me to share.
Tomorrow on Remembrance Day she will be three thousand miles and two time zones away and turn ten.
Will she close her eyes tight over a cake and a ring of ten hardly-flames and murmur those prayer of hers to be a doctor?
Burn on bold, dreams. God’s children long to be your fuel.
I remember her eyes and that lighting smile and the way her cheek felt under my hand and the sound of her halting voice as she read and how it felt sitting right there on the edge of her bed, me ripping right open and everything before slipping away.
It was after leaving her home, after my wrenching wreckage, that I had asked Shaun about his boots. He’d wore them through the shanty towns and the ganged streets and into the mud floor one roomed lives of the brave. Bring boots, they’d said. Guatemala’s in a declared state of emergency with the rainy season’s mudslides wiping away whole roads, all their lives giving away from the red clinging hills.
“These boots were my Dad’s.” They look as old as the hills. Shaun’s ahead of me, walking towards another Compassion Child Center. “He wore them in Vietnam.”
I stop dead on the street.
“Your Dad did war in those boots?”
I point to his feet.
How many lifetimes must you walk to free a man?
Who cares enough to keep walking?
Has any of my giving ever been a sacrifice? Costing me something like a bit of my life?
I need to taste the dust of those roads.
We step into the Compassion Center, a local church.
Children brazenly lift the rafters with laughing hope. Sitting at a table with sponsored children, we take broken crayons and draw pictures of the world in full color. The light that slips free through the barred windows, the tinted glass, it’s warm on my back. A boy saunters over and challenges Shaun to an arm wrestle. He flexes his Spanish with his bare arm and a grinning bravado. The whole place erupts in a flash of cheers. Children with names like Dora, Melinda, Josue, they circle in their own ring around a flaming boy of hope.
I watch a man in army boots let the children win.
Who can extinguish dreams with selfishness?
When giving could let a child win.
I come home and every day is remembrance day and I need never to forget there’s an ugly war of greed and who it is who that needs to sacrifice and who it is who needs to win. I can forget to remember. I do war against my own comfort, status quo… selfishness. And I wonder if we don’t give because we think its all propaganda and not real persons and like Amy Carmichael said, I can give without love — and I have done it — but can anyone say they love and not give?
There’s only one way to win a war and that’s with a heart already bleeding.
And all these days I am two time zones away, I want to go do something real, get my hands dirty, be part of the army pushing the earth hard and changing the world, be a radical and give away my life for something big. In this daily, bloodied battle, I forget that here is always more than it appears. That here is a always a trench too.
That to be significant, be insignificant and hand out a glass of water right here.
That the significant are lives disguised in insignificance and it’s the ministry of a cup of water to a child that relieves the world. Eternity always begins with a child. We can give our lives away to Christ one beautiful drop at a time.
When will I remember that to make a difference in the world, be different and do what no one wants to do? Wipe this child’s running nose and listen long to this neglected woman next door and wash out these toilets here and write a letter to one child on a forgotten back street of Guatemala City and the squirmish is always this:
To believe that the ripple that changes the world begins with a stone dropped here.
The smallest act of kindness is the axis that revolutionizes the world.
At the end of her street, I had seen it after we left her and half of my cracked heart, a pair of shoes hanging overhead on hydro lines.
I had stood there wondering why.
It can be easy to want to walk somewhere else instead of here.
I walk here today and remember her and tomorrow and candles in the dark. Her dreams don’t have to blow out. I can remember my gift. To be a gift wherever I am and give.
I remember how Shaun had walked north towards the bus, had walked north towards home, army boots doing war against all the middle ground.
“This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving… makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” ~Matt. 10:32 MSG
A child who needs remembering too…
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