I am reading a book given to me as a gift from my son and his family: The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley. It is about Tooley’s discovery of private school in third world countries where public education seems to be doing terribly. I have only read three chapters and so far he has investigated schools in India and Nigeria. I have lots of questions that I hope will be answered as I continue. What is eating at me today is the level of poverty of the people. I had a better sense of this after Bernie and I went to Guatemala a number of years ago. Poverty in third-world countries is far worse than we have here in the United States. I remember coming home and thinking that we Americans don’t really know poverty. We have regulations about sanitation and what we call safety nets for people living in or slipping into poverty. I am grateful for that. I would not want to see our people suffer as the poor in these other nations.
But I don’t like seeing the poor people of these other nations suffer either. It hurts me as a human being. I feel grateful for those who have gone to great lengths to help. I was inspired by Common Hope, the organization that brought us to Guatemala. Director John Huebsch helped me realize that we have to be satisfied to be able to help one small piece of the world at a time. The question is not where we act, or who we help, but whether we get off our arses and do something. When I consider what I am doing, I think I am helping, but once in a while, like today, I realize that there is so much to be done and my part feels like a drop in the ocean. It is crushing.
Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. I hate his saying that, especially in the context of Judas suggesting that the money spent on expensive perfume could be better used to help the poor. I sort of side with Judas here. On the other hand, maybe Jesus was just saying that the problem of poverty will never be solved and that there will always be work to do. Meanwhile, allow yourself to live. That idea makes me feel a little bit better but not totally. I think I am still on Judas’ side of this argument.