There is always “someone” on the other side of the tracks, “someone” who is lower than you, “someone” you can point your finger at and authoritatively state, “they’re bad and I’m good.”
Even among folks living in poverty.
I was on the phone this morning with our pointman, Audrey, in the hole-in-the-ground, God-forsaken place we call Ubaúna, Brasil. We were discussing our attempt to bring Christmas to kids in an extreme poverty region. He said, “You know that no one in Ubaúna wants anything to do with the folks in Paxólas, don’t you?”
If Ubaúna is considered a sweaty armpit, Paxólas would be considered a soiled rectum. It is nasty, filthy, unsanitary, stomach-turning. The inhabitants live on far less than $1 per day; in fact, the average “income” for a family of seven is less than $20 per month. In many ways, they live like, and act like, animals. Give a man living there $1 and he’ll immediately spend it on cheap alcohol to get blitzed; the fact that he has a one-year old at home starving is insignificant.
Now, the inhabitants of Ubaúna earn an average of $60 per month for a family of seven. Though their living conditions are primitive by our standards, they are “uptown” compared to Paxólas. But, they have the luxury of looking down on the folks who were born into Paxólas.
Audrey’s words punched me in the gut.
My response was immediate.
“Absolutely! And THAT is why WE want to be there. If everyone hates them, who better than us to show them Jesus, who loves them beyond our ability to comprehend.”
Right after hanging up, a really neat kid by the name of Noah came up to me and held out a $10 bill: “Mr. Joe, could you give this to one of the kids in Brazil?” I looked at him, with the phone conversation still disturbing my thoughts, and told him: “Noah, you can count on it. Thank you!”
Somewhere deep in my head the thought surfaced: “Those who are hated are going to discover what love feels like.”
This is going to be one interesting Christmas in Ubaúna…