We have a recycling ministry at our church where once a month we bring our collections of cans and bottles to the back of the movie theater where we meet. The cans and bottles are then taken to a recycling center to get cash that will be used to purchase shoes for children that have none at orphanages down in Mexico. It is estimated that 1 million children die each year from foot borne disease.
When this ministry launched last fall, I started out really well. Each month, I set aside my cans and bottles and would bring them to the church. As time passed, I continued collecting the items but started forgetting to bring them to church on the right Sunday. I can be pretty forgetful and this is not out the norm behavior for me. I would feel guilty when I would forget, but I didn’t feel that bad about it – at least I was still collecting the items and could bring them a different month.
A few weeks ago it was a recycling Sunday, and, in my now regular fashion, I forgot my trash bag full of cans. As we were walking out of church with some friends, I realized my error and informed them about my forgetfulness, partly as an attempt at self-deprecation. One of them then looked at me and said, “I guess it isn’t that big a deal that all those kids will have to wait one more month to get a pair of shoes.” I know that he did not intend this remark to hurt me and he probably wouldn’t even remember saying it, but I cannot get it out of my head.
I am so ashamed at my ability to turn away from the suffering and not trouble myself too much with it. I can’t come up with good excuses for my continuing forgetfulness, especially when I do believe it is important work, work that requires so little of me and yet makes a big impact. After the comment, I realized that I continue to forget because it doesn’t matter to me personally – it doesn’t affect me. I don’t have to go without shoes, or food, or water, so my inability to simply bring my trash once a month doesn’t disappoint me enough to change my behavior.
As I was thinking about this, I started thinking about my own family. I have nine nieces and nephews that I love terribly, each one with distinct personalities and gifts. What if they had to go barefoot until I brought in my recycling? What if they contracted diseases because of my forgetfulness month after month? I needed a new perspective, to allow God to truly show me that the children in the world that are hurting are my family too. They are the exact people that Jesus instructed me to care for in James 1.
In my perspective, battles to change our culture and change our world are not won in massive fundraising campaigns and events where people get super emotional after viewing difficult videos and hearing heart-wrenching stories. I think the battle has to be won in the small decisions we all make every day that will either promote justice or promote ourselves. The decision I make on Sundays, once a month, whether or not to find some way to ensure I remember my recycling, is the real battle. I want to win the battle in my own heart to be like Jesus and change the world for a couple of children I may never meet. This week, I will remember. One more step.
“He will…save the children of the needy.”