At first glance, the beach didn’t look like it had many shells to offer.
But a slower walk and a closer look revealed her secrets – tiny pieces of smooth white and brown and pink.
Who wants broken shells, anyway?
Turns out, she does. She’s my four year old niece and our families were all together for vacation over the winter break. While the older kids built a sand castle, she and I looked for shells. It was nice to be together doing something small.
I followed her around our little patch of beach, holding out my hand whenever she walked up, letting her drop the tiny pieces into my open palm. What came out was mostly sand, small shell-like pieces mixed in.
She was delighted with every partial find. Because of her, so was I. A beach that looked shell-less turned up to have a few small gifts after all.
It was sweet, those moments with her. What was not sweet was how, as we collected those shell pieces, I started to see how lovely they were all together like that. And I began to plot how I could stash away some for myself without seeming like a terrible person who takes candy from babies.
In the end, I put the first round of “shells” in my pocket and let her keep the rest. I am a little bit of a terrible person. Oh well.
A week later I’m home in the freezing rain, fuzzy socks on my feet, tiny broken shells spread out on my desk.
It’s January again and my North Carolina self is back to regularly scheduled weather programming. Not for long, though.
Nine days from today, I fly away again to warmer weather. This time, to Africa.
I’ll be joining a team of others (including fellow (in)courage blogger Myquillyn Smith, which sounds way fancier than just calling her my big sister) for the Compassion Bloggers five year anniversary trip. Their first trip was to Uganda and so this year, we return.
This won’t be my first time traveling with Compassion, but this time feels different for me. I hesitate to begin to dive into how I feel about it all, as I fear this post will become something I don’t intend for it to be.
I’ll simply say that poverty is a complicated, multi-layered problem for which I won’t pretend to even begin to understand or have solutions. A first glance at poverty and it seems impossibly hopeless to overcome. But the deepest problem of poverty isn’t merely a lack of clothing or food or shelter, not at the core.
The deepest, most enduring, most un-overcomeable part of poverty is a lack of hope.
And so these blogger trips are not mission trips or a service trips but seeing trips. We will be looking for hope on a hopeless horizon, searching for shells on seemingly shell-less beach.
Poverty is complex and messy and heavy and political and evil and confusing and heartbreaking.
But the ministry of Compassion is teaching me the beach isn’t shell-less after all. The pieces are small and broken and maddeningly hard to find. But they are still there, buried beneath the surface.
Nine days from now we’ll leave for Uganda and while we’re there we will be writing on our blogs what we see. We’re willing to answer any questions you might have and will try to have the presence of mind to ask good questions ourselves.
I will fight to stay in the moment, to tell the truth, and to refuse to let hopelessness overcome me.
If you already sponsor a child or are considering doing so, know that child sponsorship with Compassion is legit – it’s a tangible way to not only see hope but to provide it.
I hope you’ll follow our trip.Leave a Comment