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Darkness, Prayer, and Entitlement

The power was out all day.

By the time we got home in the afternoon, our back-up battery system had been depleted. The generator was out of fuel. The air was stifling; the sweat trickled down my back even while standing still.

At bedtime, the kids started loudly complaining. It's too hot to sleep without fans! But as I fumbled for a headlamp, I too was equally grumpy. The air was perfectly still and a sauna descended on the house. What do you want me to do about it? I hollered back. You're just going to have to deal with it. Go stick your head in the shower and then go back to bed!

I've got such entitled kids, I grumbled to myself.

But then I prayed, Please make the power come back on. I don't want to lose a night of sleep!

And I realized I have the same entitled attitude.

I thought of my friend who I had just talked to earlier that week. Her philandering husband had disappeared and stopped sending her money, leaving her alone to provide for the kids. She lives a couple miles away from me, in the same city with the same stifling March air. She has no indoor plumbing (she hauls water every day) or rarely the money for electricity. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she had no money for food. Only flour was in the house.

There's no welfare here. Or food stamps. There's no safety net.

I can't imagine. The idea of going home and telling my children that I have no food to give them is utterly incomprehensible to me.

If we wanted to, Gil or I could have gone out that night in the dark and bought more fuel for the generator. If we wanted to, we could have run it all night. It's expensive, but we could have afforded it. We just didn't want the inconvenience.

So when I find myself praying for the power to come back on, I must question my view of God. Is he there to fulfill all my wishes? And if so, then what about my friend, with not only no generator or electricity, but also no running water and no food? She is praying to the same God as I.

I gave my friend some groceries and am helping her think of longer-term solutions. But life for her will most likely always be brutally hard, right on the edge between survival and extinction.

Up until recently, right next-door to Haven of Peace Academy was a rock quarry. All day long, trucks would bring in boulders, and dozens of people would spend all day pounding those boulders into gravel. All day, every day.

HOPAC's soccer field is on the edge of campus, and often while watching my kids play their soccer matches--healthy, strong, well-educated and in their matching jerseys--the background noise would be the pounding of rocks.

I don't mean to give a single-sided view of Tanzania, because as I've written before, not everyone is poor. And most certainly, those who do have so much less than me have a great deal to teach me. But every day, I live my comfortable, educated, charmed life right alongside those who wonder how they will feed their children.

And I wonder how then I should live. And how I should pray. And what will be revealed on that Day, when all the charm and comfort is stripped away, and when we are all shown to be who we really are.

The power came back on at 9:00 that night, and we all had a good night's sleep. But it was the darkness which showed me my soul.

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