Friday, November 22, 2013

Dissecting a human body

I jumped the wall and entered the deserted plot of land in search of my mechanic. After a lifetime struggling (together with most of his family) with crack and alcohol addiction, he had relapsed for the umpteenth time and was (I was confidently informed) huddling once again in the mud and living a crack-pipe-to-mouth existence.

It was early evening and the light remained good, but he was nowhere to be found. It was the third or fourth time in as many weeks that I’d taken time out from visiting Enildo and tried to locate him. Like many of the addicts here, it was said that his dad had been seen of many an evening driving the streets of the slum in search of his child. Oh, the humanity.

By all appearances he was doing well last time we met and so this new low serves to remind that recovery is indeed a day-to-day process. Always recovering, they say. I’m not sure if I necessarily sign-up to that one, since we’re all in a daily battle that doesn’t end until The End, but I can see how addiction can so ravish the mind that it seems like one will never be totally liberated. An eternal POW.

I jump the wall once more to the pavement below and a veritable motorcade pulls up, each with a sticker indicating a charitable organization of which I had never heard. There was some variation of a cross in their logo, but it was not readily discernible to me. Ten or so people got out and began anxiously looking over the decrepit wall, then jacked-open their cars - full to the roof with clothes and food - as if to show me what they had brought. I turned and left.

Later that evening I was sitting with Wesley - a street guy who keeps himself to himself - and asked him if he’d like a snack, since I was going to the 24hr market. He nodded enthusiastically. Upon my return, he cradled in his hands an immaculate foil-wrapped dinner plus bottled can of juice, together with what looked like dessert. I bit my top lip and looked down at the rather sad-looking cold slice of pizza that I had bought for my friend and said “Well, just let me know if you’re still hungry after that.”

The motorcade must have passed this way, so I decided to do a little test. “Who were those people?” I asked Wesley. “You got some clothes, too?” I added, looking at the bundle rolled-up under his arm. “I think they’re some sort of cult,” he replied.

My enthusiasm now piqued by the c-word, I walked to where Enildo and some others had gathered (who were clearly also recent recipients of the mysterious benefactors). “Who were those people?” I asked into the crowd. “Satanists!” Diego snarled back. Enildo approached and soberly explained that they were indeed from a cult. Then someone else chipped-in and said it was the Catholics.

Notwithstanding the sub-standard marketing or the kindness (or otherwise) of these particular givers, the experience served to underline for me the importance of relationship in the context of giving. Of spending time (sometimes lots of time) and even (shock!) money getting to know people who you want to serve and love. The identity of the giver is not everything, nor is it about setting out one’s stall or receiving gratitude (because you won’t get that here).

It is about going deep, starting and then continuing a personal dialogue - gradually peeling away the defensive layers of guilt and shame.  It is, I think, about caring for people so much that you know their name and they know your name and then, slowly, they begin to care about what you care about.


A said...

That is very insightful and it's true...all of this takes time and love...that's why I guess many organisations just focus on a short term "fix"...which isn't really fixing anything, but it just makes them feel that they've done something... "break my heart for what breaks yours"...I wish I could be like you when I grow up...

Anonymous said...

That really made me think... "...if I have not love...".

Very challenging. Keep it up!


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