In the Shade of My Tree

Poverty hit me today. It was unexpected. It was jarring. It felt very out of place. As I was walking out the door to head to my local university to do work, I noticed something on my street. It was a South Asian family with a cart and a wagon and they were walking from door to door. I briefly noticed the newspaper in my mailbox and mentally connected the two. The mother and her son (who seemed to have a disability), stopped on the road and sat down on the curb in front of my house and looked up at me. I was putting my things in my car, preparing to drive away but the look in their eyes transported me to another place.

It transported me to the streets in South Asia, where poverty confronts you and your forced to process it and do something. It reminded me of the helpless feeling in my chest when I saw people begging for money and I couldn't give them anything. It reminded me of the brokenness of slums, and the heat, and the guilt that I had a home to return to.

It's not that I'm not used to seeing South Asians, the cities that I commonly live in are heavily populated with immigrants from all over the world. But in my little hometown, it's more unusual. I think my city only really started to diversify after I moved out to attend university. And don't get me wrong, we have poverty - but it looks very different. It's more hidden.

This family, dressed in traditional South Asian clothes, with mannerisms, and probably very little English looked extremely out of place. I saw the look in their eyes and I was taken back to that discomfort of being faced with something too large to handle. Faced with feelings of guilt, that I had a manicured lawn and a car to drive. My head filled with questions as I drove past them.

What is their story?

How did they get here?

Where are they living?

As I drove away, with mixed feelings of confusion and stress that they were invading my home, I realized why they sat down where they did. They just wanted to sit in the shade of my tree. And for some reason, that breaks my heart. And now that I'm sitting in the library, supposed to be working on my seminary homework, I can't get them out of my head.

Lord, I can't heal and fix and mend everything in this world that's broken - even though I desperately wish I could. Will you step in and intervene? Will you care for those who are hurting, and seek out those who are lost? Will you provide for the immigrants and the impoverished? Will you comfort those who are exhausted by the hot sun - will you be their shade? Their stream of living water so that they don't need to thirst?