I remember her — a poor woman sweeping the pavement in Calcutta.
I was across the road, separated from her by cars and straining buses that leaned precariously as they traveled, overloaded and overcrowded, down the street.
She had a small child. The little girl played in her make-believe world, not knowing that the odds were already stacked unfairly against her. Odds like disease, abuse, trafficking, hunger, poverty.
As I watched, I witnessed one of the most troubling sights I have seen. As the mother hunched over, sweeping the path, the little girl took a discarded plastic cup and filled it with wastewater from the gutter.
She poured it on the concrete and began to scrub the pavement clean with a piece of litter.
I could almost hear her say,
“Look, I’m just like mummy.”
At that moment, poverty had claimed her life and marked her place in the world, yet she was barely old enough to speak or walk.
I tell you this story not because I want you to feel guilty, but because I want you to feel outraged by poverty.
I want you to identify with this mother and her child as your own sister and daughter.
I want you to feel disturbed enough to ask why these things happen, then stand up and speak out as an advocate for the “least of these.”
I want this story to trouble you enough to provoke a moment longer of prayer on their behalf, and to ask yourself how much is enough. What do you really need so that out of your comparative wealth you might find that extra to give?
It is a true gift from God when we move past dutiful charity and come to a deep solidarity with the poor.
Anchoring our discipleship in the compassion and justice of Jesus is something we should all wish for. In short, a heart for the poor is a conversion experience.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” — Mark 10:25, NIV
Prayer: Loving God, please give us just a glimmer of your heart for the poor. Encourage us to stand up and defend the weak and the powerless, and deeply anchor our discipleship in the justice and compassion of Jesus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Tollestrup is the Executive Director for TEAR Fund New Zealand. He is the Director of the World Evangelical Alliance Peace and Reconciliation Initiative and has an honors degree in Theology and a post-graduate degree in Industrial Relations.
Read all the One in Spirit devotionals.