It was the stuff of literature, the dramatic juxtaposition of striking contrasts.
I spent the morning at a ministry for children in one of the worst barrios in Bogotá. These children face horrors beyond what most of us would dare to dream exist in the world. All live in unimaginable squalor. They have little or no prospect for education or advancement. Many are the children of drug dealers and addicts. Others are the children of prostitutes—and have slept or played in the rooms where their mothers work. A majority have been abused sexually. Some have been used as child prostitutes, others offered to the landlord to pay the rent that (or every) month.
Coming home, I spent some time scanning the headlines, reading of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the men and women who make up its ranks. Thirty-somethings. Making tens of thousands of dollars a year. Filling us in with regular updates from their iPhones. Clothed. Sheltered. Filled. Protesting economic inequality.
There is inequality, to be sure, between the self-proclaimed 99% and the world’s wealthiest. But I suspect there is a far greater chasm between the protesters and the children I had the privilege to serve that morning.
Have they had to move in with their parents because of a shortage of funds? At least they haven’t had to share a room with their entire family, share a kitchen and bathroom with several other families, looked on as their mothers worked in the most degrading profession. Have they not found the employment they were hoping for when they graduated? At least they haven’t been forced into prostitution as children in order to pay the rent for the hovel they call home. Have they student loans that need paying? At least they had the privilege of education and a government that helps them finance it. That is inequality.
The debt we have—and most all of us have it, Christian or not—is a slavery of our own making. We could have gone through college without student loans, but we chose not to, because we preferred drinking and video games to the weariness of working and studying full time. We do not need the majority of the things we have, but we purchase them anyway, regardless of whether or not we can afford them.
We have sold ourselves into our slavery.
But these children were sold into theirs. With no choice and little possibility of redemption.
Perhaps the time has come to divert the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of donations going to these protesters to those who truly need it—and who have not the privileges necessary to make their protest heard.
Perhaps the time has come to turn the protest into praise—gratitude for the many blessings of which we are manifestly unworthy.