Injustice Has A Face

Injustice is no longer just a good idea. 
Injustice is no longer a video I watch at church. 
Injustice is no longer what my spare change goes to at a stoplight. 

Injustice now has a face, and a name, and a soul.
Injustice is personal.  
And I hate it. 

This past week my heart was stolen by a precious 10 year old girl with deep brown eyes and a gentle smile. 

My first week here in the Dominican Republic was spent at a school called Anija, in the town of Jarabacoa. In this school, I had the opportunity to love on some of the sweetest, most generous little lives I have ever met through teaching sports. What could be better?!

Using my love of volleyball, I was blessed with the chance to build relationships with these children.

I met my sweet friend on the first day.  She was one of the girls who wanted to learn volleyball. 
My sweet friend was so kind and gentle, so encouraging and shy.  We became fast friends.

On Monday afternoon, the school staff took me to visit the houses of some of the children who attend the school.
They explained to me we were not going to simply gaze at the poverty.  We were visiting these homes so I could hear the stories of the people of the DR and understand the culture in new ways. 

My heart was broken and my world was rocked. 

As we got out of the van, we walked on dirt roads up to wood shacks.  Chickens ran past and laundry hung on the line to dry. Naked children sat in the dirt and cows stood grazing. 

I was nearly speechless.
How can this be the same world in which I live?
How can it be that in the same world exists such excess and such poverty?
The question continued to nag on my heart. 

Our final visit was made to a kind mother who welcomed us generously into her home.
The home was small.
Not small like United States small.
The home was actually tiny.
It could barely be called a home. More like two small rooms.  
5 children lived in that home with their mother. 

We asked the names of her children.
My voice caught in my throat when I heard my sweet friend’s name and realized this place was what she called home.
This was no place for a young child to grow up.
But this was her home. 

This mother spoke of her love for her children and she spoke of her despair at where life had left her.
But she hugged us and thanked us for coming and smiled broadly.  
She appeared to be full of joy, despite her surroundings and her struggles.

Why does this woman smile and laugh in her despair while I complain and grumble in my abundance?

I went back to the school after this visit and my sweet friend came up to hug me once again.
“Hola, Hannah.” 
“Hola, Chica! Como fue tu clase?” 

Our conversation progressed as it would with any child in the States. 
But my sweet friend’s life is one I will never fully understand or relate to. 
My sweet friend wakes up every morning unsure if her mother will find work that day, or if they will have food to eat, or if she even has a future at all. 

She has so little. 
But she has so much kindness and love in her heart. 

On Friday, I had to tell my sweet friend goodbye. Tears filled my eyes. 
I hugged her and I did not want to let go. I knew as long as she was in my arms she was safe and loved.
But as soon as I let go, I had no way to know where her life would take her.  I had no way to know if she would be cared for, provided for, or watched over. 

I had to surrender my sweet friend to the loving care of our Father. 

But before I walked out the gates of the school, she ran over to me and took a necklace off of her own neck and put it onto mine. 
I was stunned. 
I protested.  But she insisted. 

This girl has so little.
I was at her house.
I saw what she has.
But she gave me her necklace. 
She gave what she had away. 

The majority of people in our world would call my sweet friend poor. 
But I do not see her that way.
I see my sweet friend as a young woman with incredible potential to change the world.
Because she understands what is truly of value in this world. 
She loves others well.

In my context, in the suburbs of Chicago, I see so many children growing up in abundance. 
I grew up in abundance. 
We often expect to have all our needs met, to have nice things, and we always want more. 
We hold tightly to what we have, mistaking those things as essentials.  

My sweet friend’s life is unjust. 
And I know I am called to do something about it.

But my sweet friend is wiser than I am at twice her age. 
She understands that love is not love unless you are willing to sacrifice for it.
She gave me her necklace. 

What will you give up to show love and bring justice to this world?

I vow to love through sacrifice and generosity in order to fight the injustices in our world.

And I will wear my necklace to remind me of my sweet friend and the day I learned what love really is.

TravelAlex Heidner