On the Sidewalk

April 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I didn't even have my bearings yet. My companions and I had been in Monrovia, Liberia for less than 24 hours. The flight had been more than 20 hours total. We had arrived in the dark, and now before lunch, we were driven downtown to a tailor's shop.

Although the only light came from the street, I was caught by the color and texture of the fabric. Our group was excited with our purchases and the gifts that we could share when we arrived back home in two weeks. But shortly, we were outside, on the sidewalk, in the sunshine, which felt so different from the Midwest winter. Two young men approached us with horrific wounds, battle scars from the long Liberian war. Another came up whose arms had been amputated just below the shoulders. They wanted money. And we obviously had money. We had shopping bags. And our young host began to usher us into the van pronouncing the other young men as "bad boys." There was to be no more conversations, no more possibilities of helping. We rode back to our compound. I was different.

And I wondered. Boys with hands and arms worked in that tailor shop, making the shirts and dresses we had just purchased. But how does anyone without hands and arms care for themselves? How can he eat unless someone feeds him? I didn't take any photos on the sidewalk that day, but this photo always reminds me of that young man, and the horror and devastation of war, and our dependence on others. No one lives completely independent of others. We need the compassion of others when we are hurt. And we can give compassion to others who are wounded by this life. This attitude can change the world, caring more for others, than for ourselves.


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