This morning I sat in the 10X20 foot, one-room home of Lucilia in the municipality of Apopa in the city of San Salvador, El Salvador. Lucilia is 40 years old, but could easily pass for 50 as the sun and stress of life has aged her face far too quickly. She lives in her small home with two daughters, 15 and 3. And although she never told us, the chickens and the scale in the home made it clear that she sells eggs to make her living and support her family.
In-between tears, Lucilia shared with me the heart-wrenching story of her 15-year old daughter, Rachelle. For the past 2 years, Rachelle has lived with a terminal disease that attacks her bones. It has left her body deformed and virtually useless. As a result of this terrible disease, in the near future, this beautiful teenager will lose her life far too early than she should. But today, the disease causes Rachelle pain that is both excruciating and unrelenting. Unfortunately, as her mother explained, there is simply not enough money to pay for the pain medication that would alleviate her pain during this final phase of her life. And if you looked close enough, you could almost see the daughter’s pain on the weathered face of her mother too. Like any mother, she desperately longed to bear the burden for her.
During our conversation, a scene began to unfold on the floor of the dark and dirty home that has forever been etched in my mind. Lucilia’s three-year old daughter briefly left the room and returned with one small bag of used crayons and one coloring book. As the father of a young daughter, I was deeply intrigued. The young girl sat down on the tile floor, pulled two crayons from the bag, and opened her coloring book to the first page… it was already colored. She flipped to the next page… it was also colored. So was the next… and the next… and the next… and the next… and the next…. all colored. My heart again broke for this family – the third time during our short conversation. Oh, how I desperately longed to run to my daughter’s closet and grab just one of her coloring books to give to this incredibly precious little girl. Oh, I longed to see her smile and have a page to color.
The impact of poverty evidenced this morning was among the greatest I have ever witnessed.
While this scene unfolded and the gravity of Rachelle’s situation sunk deep into my soul, my mind raced to a familiar story of the ancient Israelites. The story is told that as the Israelites left Egypt in search of their new home, they found themselves hungry and without food in the Middle-Eastern desert. As the story continues, God provides bread from heaven each morning with only one instruction: Each member of the wandering nation was too “gather only as much as was needed for their family.” And when they did, no one gathered too much and no one gathered too little. But there was equality.
It became very clear to me this morning that this world desperately longs for equality. We need more people who gather “only what is needed.” Because maybe then, others could “gather what is needed.” Nobody will gather too much… and nobody will gather too little.
Now, I am not naïve enough to think that the cycle of poverty around the world will be broken by simply choosing to gather less and give more… there are far greater factors at play here. But when you sit in the home of a dying 15-year old girl and her mother who can’t afford the pain medication available across the street, you feel called to action. You long for the day when people will gather only what is needed. You begin to plead for the privilege of sharing with others. And you begin to realize that Lucilia’s story is far too closely tied to ours.