No longer are they a faceless, nameless mass of hypothetical humans. There was once a time when I heard rumors of homeless walking my street, children starving in strange countries, teenagers being taken and sold as sex slaves, drug addicts searching desperately for old needles. They didn’t pertain to me or my comfortable life or my day-to-day whims. For all I knew, they didn’t exist, and if they did exist, it didn’t matter any to me. Introspection proved to be satiable for my mind; there was nothing worth pursuing other than my selfish desires and nothing worth chasing other than the wind.
Somewhere in the midst of the years of apathy, I found myself looking into the eyes of the homeless man. I found myself bumping shoulders with the girl who tried to kill herself, becoming acquainted with one of the starving children in Kenya, learning in graphic detail the story of the sex slave, holding conversations with the 14 year old girl who was afraid she was pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby. These weren’t hypothetical anymore. I now heard the desperate cry of the addict, the prayers of the teenager whose parents were alcoholics, the silence coming from the aborted. I felt the weakness of the bedridden in chronic pain, felt the tears on my shoulder from the one whose suicide failed, felt the guilt of the middle school student being forced into man-based, shame-driven “religion”, felt the anxiety of the wife whose husband is overseas for military purposes. I saw the hopelessness in their eyes, the shame burdening them, the cuts on their wrists, the complete lack of motivation, the disappointment found in trying to solve problems with sensual love, the failure hanging over their heads, their hatred of themselves for the porn they can’t get away from, the emptiness that now filled them.
Every lonely girl at lunch, every boy who constantly ridicules his peers, the person I keep making awkward eye contact with, and everybody whose shoes I have accidentally stepped on all have pain somewhere in them, maybe so deep that they will entrust it to no one. These are people, my closest friends even, with faces and stories and names and souls.
Now I find myself in tears, praying urgently for that girl somewhere in America who is about to abort her child. I pray desperately for the kid being beat right now by his drug abusing parents, for the heroin addict screaming with withdrawal, the baby born of sex trafficking being hidden in a closet as his mother is put to work, the man standing at the side of the road in the cold asking for food but wishing for vodka. I wake up in the morning and ask to see Jesus, and my mind is filled with graphic images of the hurting and the lost- the least of these. And I curse myself for not doing anything sooner. I question how much a prayer could really do, how much a portion of my paycheck helps to save souls, how much a friendly gesture could really effect someone’s life. How much of what I do is truly for the least of these? Is my life even showing the broken world that there is One who restores? How am I to justify myself when saying that I am a vessel of the fullness of God, yet doing nothing to show it? I still complain about my hair, get worked up over boys liking my friends instead of me, rant about my homework, and fight with my dad about getting a tattoo while there are people who lose their hair in chemotherapy, or get prostituted, or would do anything to get a decent education, or whose dad walked out on them when they were little and told them they were a mistake.
I refuse to be comforted. (Jeremiah 31:15)