I’m so glad that the handles of my supermarket trolley have been suitably ergonomically moulded to maximise my shopping comfort while I forage among perfectly poised piles of apples. Because it’s uncomfortable using a regular handled trolley. Apparently.
It all came crashing down the day I met Kevin from Kolkata.
Kevin (okay, so “Kevin” isn’t his real name) sits on the main street in Kolkata. And when I say “sits”, I mean he perches on a trolley and is wheeled out onto the street, because his hands and feet were removed at some point in his life.
Kevin sits, and he begs.
I had been excited to walk down Kolkata’s main street. It was my first trip to India in a long time so, naturally, I had thought long and hard about important things like the correct footwear for such an occasion.
I purchased some on trend numbers with washable polyester webbing upper, hydrophobic quick dry mesh lining, moulded foot beds – anatomically engineered to provide excellent arch support and cradle the natural contours of my foot, and a non-marking rubber outsole with multi directional lug pattern for grip.
I wonder what Kevin thought of them?
All suited up and armed with excellent footwear for my expedition, I stepped out onto Park street. Here I am world. Have at me.
I walked down the street dodging cars, dodging goats, dodging human waste, with my husband and four children in tow. I kept my youngest daughter close as my mind started preparing the suitably sage Mummy advice that I would no doubt impart when we stopped to debrief the cacophony of sounds and smells she was absorbing.
And then it happened. Kevin. I could see him out of the corner of my eye.
Devastating poverty right before me. My mind raced. What do I do? Do I look at him? Do I not look at him? Do I give him money? What is my face doing? What is everyone else doing? What would Jesus do?
As my mind slipped into a black hole of ridiculous panic, I saw my six-year-old daughter turn her face towards Kevin.
She was the same height as him. Their gaze met. And she didn’t look away.
She looked straight at him with her golden hair and her clear eyes and she smiled. She smiled and gingerly waved at him. Following her lead, I turned my own face towards Kevin and saw an enormous smile creep onto his weathered face. He lifted his amputated limb and waved back at her, exposing a solitary tooth and a twinkle in his eye.
And there it was. The answer from my six-year-old.
Living in a world of comfortable excess can make it hard to know what to do in the face of gut-wrenching poverty. It’s confusing and confronting and overwhelming. But I learned from my daughter that day that sometimes the best thing to do is let our heart speak. Let our eyes and hearts and well clad feet take us to places where we are challenged and broken and restored by a smile.
And, so, as I glide through the supermarket and my mind starts to whirl in despair when I think of Kevin as I’m selecting my preferred toothpaste from the 173 available options… I remember that the answer to my conflict is not to look away. It’s not to hide away.
Instead I think about Kevin. I look this memory in the face. And I ask God to show me the one thing I can do today to share in His heart for the poor.