I live in a very nice home in a large “golf-club” community in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. While there may be some neighborhoods around that are more upscale, ours isn’t too shabby. Our house isn’t the nicest in the sub-division, but it’s not on the low end either. I would say it’s somewhere in the middle. I have enjoyed living in this house. It’s too big for just Tim and me now, but we sure have made good use of it over the seven or so years that we’ve lived here. We’ve raised up our girls, had one young lady stay with us for awhile who’s now become like our third daughter, had wedding in our basement (!), had some pretty lively discussions on our screened in porch (if those walls could talk), and had more people over than I can count. But even though I love my house, and even though we’ve done some great things in it, I always try to remember that there’s a big world out there beyond my home.
At this point in the blog most writers would start quoting statistics. Not me! I always hated statistics in school so I’m not going to bother. Instead, I will tell you what I see. I think by looking around the area where I live (and most of you who live in upper-middle class suburbia can attest to this), I can tell you that I see a lot of nice houses and well-dressed people. I also see some nice cars driving around. What I don’t see is a lot of obvious poverty. However, if you take your car out for a drive, you might be surprised at what you find. Poverty is everywhere. You really don’t need to look all that hard to find it. It’s even in the backyard of the really nice golf-club community where I live.
I work with a wonderful organization called Streetwise Georgia. They work in our community to help folks in need by offering spiritual as well as physical assistance. On Thursdays a group of us go to a nearby area to pass out food for Streetwise. We’ve been visiting this area for awhile, so we’ve all built up some relationships with the folks there. This past week I was visiting a family who had just moved from one apartment to another. While I was in the home, a little girl who lived there was jumping up and down with excitement as I was talking to the adults in the room because she had something she wanted me to see. Finally, the adults stopped talking and she got to show me what all the excitement was about. In the bedroom that she and her mother shared, on a small table next to the bed, was a lamp with a purple lampshade. We all had to stand in the room while her mother turned the lamp on. When the lamp lit up, the girl got excited and started jumping up and down, her excitement spread to me, and I started jumping up and down, too! Next, we turned the overhead lights off in the room and turned that bedside lamp on again. Imagine our excitement then!!! Now, it doesn’t take much to get me animated about things. One time my husband asked me if I was thirteen. As I considered this, I thought he probably should have taken that number down to nine, or maybe seven. I have a batman and superman figure on the dashboard of my Jeep just because it makes me happy. I like working with the youth in my church. Sure, I like working with the young people, but this also lets me do things like play Jenga, Pretty Pretty Princess, Candyland, and color in coloring books. But seeing that little girl’s reaction over that light created a different type of joy in my heart.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that girl and the light in her bedroom ever since. I could talk about how she was living in a very needy area, didn’t have much, but was happy with a light, and what an example that should be to all of us – especially since many of us have children who have loads of toys, electronic gadgets, etc… and seem to take them for granted. But that isn’t what has stuck with me. What has stuck with me is how in an apartment that was once a chicken coop, a little girl and her reaction over turning on a light brought real joy to my heart. She also made me think about the true light, and what an impact it has on a person’s life. It has made me hope and pray that I can be that kind of a light to others.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
I have done mission work overseas as well as here in the states. I have so often found it to be the case that when we are sent to help others, we are oftentimes the ones who are helped, or taught, or blessed. I am so thankful for the wonderful time that I spent with this little girl last week. She taught me a lesson that I hope I always remember. A wonderful illustration of light.