Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Getting past the cringe

I went down to Poplar Street here in Macon this evening to check out a free dinner and Bible study that a local church, Word Aflame Tabernacle, runs each Tuesday for the homeless.

I was going to write a story about it, but it turns out we ran something about a nearly identical Thursday night program, operated by another church, on Saturday. Poorly kept secret: I don't always read the paper.

But the folks at Word Aflame deserve some recognition. I was there less than half an hour, but it's obvious they genuinely care for the people there. They brought their children. They played in a city fountain with a homeless man. They laughed, they shared, they hugged.

And it put me in mind of a story I read about a man named Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Edhi ministers to orphans in Pakistan. He builds hospitals and buries dead bodies that he finds in the street. He refuses government funding. He puts cribs outside each of his foundation offices for unwanted babies.

His foundation Web site says that 20,000 children have been saved. The National Geographic article noted that Edhi has given away hundreds of brides.

This quote is attributed to him in a summary of his biography:
I had accepted at the outset that charity was distorted and completely unrelated to its original concept. Reverting to the ideal was like diverting an ocean of wild waters. Another major obstacle in the promotion of welfare was exposed...the disgust of man towards mankind. There was only one expression, one reaction from everyone...cringing.

From the grimacing faces of my colleagues I understood that I was the only one not disgusted. They washed their hands vigorously, smelt their clothes repeatedly and complained incessantly of the stench having seeped under their skins. Then they rushed home to bathe, scrubbed their clothes and disinfected them, sometimes gave them away saying, "The very weave was stricken."

There was nowhere to go with this attitude. We could not reduce suffering unless we rose above our own senses...cringing was the first and the greatest hinderance that blocked our way, the most brutal, but also the most understandable.

I know that Macon, Georgia, is not Pakistan. But God bless people who have gotten past the cringe.

If you'd like more information about Word Aflame's efforts you can call their outreach assistants Grady and Faye Bennett at (478)750-0241 or (478)390-1646.

If you'd like more information about Mr. Edhi's foundation, visit it here.

1 comment:

Lara said...

"We could not reduce suffering unless we rose above our own senses..."
In order to get past the cringe we must first acknowledge that we do so, and understand why we do it. Self-awareness is difficult to attain.