banner image
Within arm’s length -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1 October 28, 2006

Within arm’s length

In India I think almost constantly about the poverty as I come everyday within arm's length of the most dreadful conditions I've seen anywhere.  As we daily pass a group of families living under a freeway overpass, I say to a colleague, "You just don't get any poorer than that."  We passed them later after dark, and while I couldn't see their makeshift tents, I could see the flicker of flames from their campfires and the silhouettes of children. I almost cried … as I'm almost crying now while I write this.  

I thought of these families and wondered whether they must dread nightfall and the darkness that gradually encases them or whether they somehow find comfort in it. Is it friend or foe? Can it somehow camouflage the heavy burdens, numb the destitution that glares so blatantly in the light of day? Things can appear more tranquil at night, I guess, more still perhaps. Maybe the families draw a little closer to the fire, a little nearer to one another. They seem so small under this huge concrete overpass, the pillars towering above their little tents. 

But they're not insignificant, in spite of what hand they've been dealt. They're important and deserve so much more than to be forced day after day, hand after hand, simply to fold. In spite of it all, they get by, and they make it work, and I admire them deeply for that. As difficult as the mornings for them must be, at least with the night they know sleep will follow.  And I can only imagine there's solace in dreaming.