I have a friend who walks closely with his Lord. He is one of the most positive, intelligent, creative and warm-hearted human-beings it is my joy to know. He was institutionalized as a child. Over and over again he was told in so many different ways by many caring for him and even some of his family, that he was a piece of garbage. He was a burden to society. I honestly believe given the opportunity that someone caring for him would have killed him, even daring to call it a mercy killing.
Why did so many feel this way about a young lad, who even now cares far more for others than fo himself? Because he was different. He was born with cerebral palsy. He couldn’t crawl like other infants. He ended up needing care 24/7. He was not expected to live long. My friend showed many that they were wrong.
He went on later in life to learn literacy. He is on his fourth book of spiritual prose. He is a gifted painter. He is a passionate social advocate. If those weren’t enough accomplishments, my friend is training to be a minister.
In that journey he experienced a night I will never forget. It started as he called me. He asked me to come to his apartment right away. Little did I know then that I would be spending the entire night convincing him not to commit suicide.
I rushed in my power chair to his apartment. I saw the tears stream down his face in a torrent of resigned sadness. “Kevin, please tell everyone that when I go out and sell some of my books I feel like a beggar. Kevin, tell them, please tell them that many of us are so afraid that if we don’t report even small amounts of income, that we will get cut off. We will be treated like criminals.”
Counsellors would say that at this time my friend was a high suicide risk. He had a plan. I knew him well enough, that he also had the determination to carry out that plan. He was going to drive his power chair off the balcony. Given that he lived several floors up, the fall would have probably killed him.
All through that long and sorrowful night I sang songs to him. I kept speaking affirmations of what God and so many people who loved him thought of him. “But, Kevin I’m just so tired of fighting. I don’t want to live any longer. The pain inside is just too much. Maybe, Kevin, maybe, I am the waste of flesh people say I am.”
It took the whole night, but as morning came my friend had the hope in his Lord to go on. Even in my bone-aching exhaustion as I heard the sweet chirping of the birds rejoicing that morning had come, I saw by the joy in my friend’s soul that light had won out over darkness. There was a song in his heart. While not fully recovered from that harrowing seeming never-ending night, my dear friend was on the road to recovery.
Yet, my friend is only one example among many not only in Ontario, but rather throughout our world, who are ready to give up. They have lived the wretched and miserable journey of poverty long enough. They want to be free. For many the dream, the fading hope is for even one meal in a day.
So many are vulnerable to hope. They learn all too well that dreams can be cruel when they aren’t realized. They die a little more each day until there is no life left. Hope then instead of being the friend becomes the enemy
In Proverbs we are told that hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12). Hope is replaced by despondency. The light of hope for a brighter tomorrow is dimmed. Love is replaced by a more endurable numbness and coldness in one’s heart. It is then that as the person drifts further away from life and closer to spiritual then physical death, that it’s far less painful just to not care anymore,, just to resign oneself to death.
It is easy to criticize our leaders. Many of us do not have the onerous responsibilities of running a government. Trying to have policies to address the pervasive problem of poverty seems to be an insurmountable task. There are no instant cookie cutter solutions. I have spoken with people in political office, whose thoughts could best be summarized in these words:
“Kevin, I really do want to serve my constituents. I need people on my team working alongside me giving me their time and ideas, so I can put them forward to my superiors. I would like to see more people in community working for us rather than against us.”
Honestly, I thought I would never be helping politicians. I have always believed even from the time I was a young man of 20, that I would be focusing on church and para-church work. Yet, my Lord has made it clear to me that my primary calling before anything else, is to serve my community and suffering humanity.
About a year ago a doctor from Africa challenged my assumption that missions for me would be eventually mostly on an international level. He told me that there was so much need here in the province of Ontario and in Canada. He said as I felt him speak to my heart, “Kevin, don’t ignore the mission field you have right here. Although we have only spoken for a short time, I already know that there is a lot of work that you can do to help your community.”
We need to set politics aside. The problems of our communities and our world are far too serious for us to be engaged in political infighting. We will not always agree. Yet, we can strive to be kinder to one another, and even take more time to see that even with our differences, we share in the common hope for a just society. There is far too much division among us. Let us sit down together and come up with policies that will give those on Ontario Disability and welfare the ability to earn much more than they are now before there are any deductions. If the United Kingdom can reduce child poverty by 23% in five years, I believe with a determined will and well defined and achievable goals, we can do even better than that.
Jack Layton left us all with a legacy of hope. When we saw his noble fight against the ravages of cancer, Jack had us all believing that if he with his challenges could do so much, then how much more can we all do working together regardless of our challenges.
Let us work together to give hope back to that child sorting through a garbage dump for food in Thailand, to the mother struggling to feed her children in Ontario, and to people like my beloved friend.
If Gandhi says that we need to be the change we would desire to see in the world, then it begins with you and with me. It is all of us taking small steps together. And as Jack said better than I ever could, “Together, we will change the world.”