We are a family of seven now and there has been a steep learning curve as we try to make this new normal feel a bit more normal and a little less exhausting--if that's at all possible. But even though it’s hard, extremely hard some days to manage all that is on my plate, I recognise that I am not without resources, access to all that I need and people walking alongside me who love my family. So even on very hard days, and there have been some, I know many women cannot say the same and that's what grips my heart these days.
There are countless women who, every day, try in various ways to piece together a life amid turbulent marriages, poverty, abuse and their own lack of education or skills. I pass by them as we drive around this bustling city. I ignore them at intersections because I know the money I give won’t go to that small child limply laying on her mother’s shoulder (if it even is her mother), but will go to some other person who has trapped them both in a cruel lifestyle because they are poor and vulnerable.
Poverty and its effects are all around us here. Almost every time I look out my window I see someone passing by without shoes, wearing dirty, torn clothes—usually they are in the form of small children roaming around without supervision. I know there are places in the U.S. where poverty is visible. I know kids all over the world, in western countries as well, go to bed hungry and wear old clothing. But I have never seen poverty back home to the degree in which I've seen it here. The fact remains there are more people in India living in extreme poverty than the total population of the United States—that's about one third of this vast country that live on less than a dollar a day.
Confronted with this sort of poverty it’s hard to know what can be done to help. The problem is larger than one person or organisation and the scale of it has paralysed and overwhelmed me in the past.
But a few years ago, after I stopped being overwhelmed by the needs on every corner, I decided that while we can’t help everyone, we needed to try to do something for the people within our sphere of influence, particularly for the women and children.
Then last year God gave us an opportunity to be a part of helping women who live in a local slum have meaningful work and a way to provide for their families so they are not forced into lives that would bring them or their children harm. Though I admit that at first I was reluctant to take on such a project. I had four kids at the time and plenty to keep me busy. But God kept pressing in on me until I knew this was what he wanted our family to do. So we took over an income-generation program our church had begun several years back in the hopes we'd be able to grow it so we can employ even more women at risk.
And through all this I’ve come to see that there is something powerful for all of us involved when women reach out to other women, not simply in charity, but out of love and respect, and offer opportunities for a better life. It’s what I would want someone to do for me if I were in that situation—if my husband drank away his salary and my kids were starving. And if the only other option was prostitution or begging, which many women have been forced into out of desperation.
If I want to live out what I say I believe and I want to love like Jesus did I have to follow his lead. He said this in Matthew 7:12:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
So simple, yet I don’t always live in light of this truth because it's not always easy or convenient to love and serve others, is it?
There are ways to help women that can give them hope, where perhaps now little or none exists. Initially, you may not know how to begin, but it has been my experience that as I begin to have a desire to reach out in some way, God shows me the ways in which he wants to use me. Perhaps it's to give someone a bag of food, some clothing or perhaps it's to give women long-term employment and training in a trade. It doesn't have to be big, but small steps often do yield big results.
Earlier this week there was a post about the little things. God uses them, little and big to change this world and our hearts. All that is required is the desire to be used and heart that seeks to live out Jesus' invitation to care about others in the same way we would have others care about us.