The Labor of Advent
We sit and sort through tiny beads, searching for the right ones.
Stringing letters one by one we name the nameless, the forgotten, and abandoned, and beaten child.
They are known.
We know them. We send them proof.
Cards and letters written specifically to each of them by the youth group at our church.
Bracelets that say their name. A personal touch that reaches across oceans and around the planet and says, "We see you. We know you. We love you. We care."
The staff at our local Trader Joe's donated art supplies to send to the kids at the Charis Home.
This is how we prepare for the birth of Christ. Our table glitters with scattered beads. The den overflows with envelopes half stuffed with socks and hairbrushes, toothbrushes, glow sticks and art supplies.
We sort and package treasures for children who think a simple balloon is a really great treat. We are sending children their first Christmas present. Ever.
We labor toward the birth, the entering of light into dark, the kingdom of heaven breaking into history.
But I am weary from the labor, it's been long and hard and still the darkness presses. I wonder how long it will take for the light to come.
You should stop reading now if you want to go away from here with a happy, light, good feeling.
I'm going to be frank. It might not be pretty. I will tell you of the dark part of labor, that place where a woman announces, "I can't do it anymore."
You see, I'm tired of trying to figure out how to tell this story in a way that will make you* care. I'm tired of wondering why people can know that there are kids going hungry every night and abused by grownups who enslave them and then walk away and do nothing.
More than that I'm sick that there is a story to tell. I'm tired of sitting and weeping over the stories of these kids we take care of, wondering where their scars came from, how badly they were beaten, how long it will take them to recover, if they saw their parents die. I'm tired of wondering if we are going to be able to send them enough to eat next month.
I'm tired of war and poverty and ignorance and neglect.
I'm tired of this whole thing coming down to dollars and popularity. That children are sold because of lack of resources, that people don't care until someone famous says something about it.
It bothers me that we all feel we have to pick and choose what we will and won't care about or support, there is that much need.
I'm sad that a phrase like "compassion fatigue" even exists. That me telling you that a little 9 year old girl named Armpha doesn't have a mother anymore because she "disappeared in the jungle during the time of the conflict" in Burma may not even register. I hate wondering if I should find a different story, one with more pathos or memorable details, because hers might not be enough to spur anyone to action.
I'm tired of fighting and struggling for these kids everyday and feeling like I'm not getting anywhere.
I'm just a regular person you know. Some days I wish I didn't know, hadn't seen, then I could use my spare time to sew or knit or write or something. Then I might have some spare time to use.
I'm tired, but I'm not quitting. I won't abandon them now. The only way out of labor is through it. These particular children are my responsibility. No one else is there to take care of them. I said yes to them and I'll do my best, even if I have to do it alone.
*by YOU I don't mean you, dear readers. You have been so supportive and responsive and encouraging, and I know a lot of you do a lot of amazing things to help others.