Luke 24:13-32
This is Jesus heartburn(I have to credit Dallas Willard for this term!)...31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Attitudinal Change

Today I got to go to a graduation celebration. Aunty Marie, the wonderful friend that has been cooking for me and taking such good care of me, had a granddaughter graduating from nursery school. She invited me to go along and I went. I wanted to see some more inside the community of Freetown, I was ready to get out of the center for an afternoon, and I love Marie and I knew that her granddaughter would be just as wonderful. I learned or was reminded of some things today…when you are a white woman in Sierra Leone you don't get to sit in the back of the room and simply observe the ceremony! The moment I walked through the door the headmistress had me come to the front and sit at the honored guest table. I was introduced to the crowd as a very important person in Sierra Leone who works with children. I got Fanta, I handed out awards to the best students and gifts to the ones who always came with pressed uniforms or were never late or absent.

One of the programs at the school is called attitudinal change, from what I could understand they teach the students ideas and lessons that will help them develop attitudes about life and work that are different from there parents. Several of the children came forward and recited these things… "Parents, send your children to school!" "Parents, don't send your children to buy cigarettes and alcohol for you!" "Children obey your parents" "Parents don't send your children out to sell on the streets, this leads to alcohol abuse and early sex." There were really quite a few of not so gentle lectures to the parents…they were reminded that it is their job to provide for their children, not their children's job to provide for them. They even had to be encouraged to clap for their children and show their support. I was reminded that the children living at the center are blessed because they will not have to stand on the street selling water or biscuits or whatever to provide for their parents. They are free to go to school, to come home from school and put on casual clothes and nap and play. This is good but there are so many more children in this country that are not as lucky. I see them everyday selling fruit or water instead of being in school. And I wonder what does it take to change a whole country, a whole system…probably a little attitudinal change at all levels of society.

I left the school with Marie, thinking about the attitudinal change and the "poor parenting" that they talked about and Marie started to explain to me where we were in the city. She lived in this area during the war. She told me that they built the school there because they could no longer send their students to schools that were outside their neighborhood because parents would be killed taking their children to school. As we walked down one road she told me that it was the road she ran down with her children to escape the bombs and the rebels. "I saw people die, right here! They would line us up on this street and then choose 1 or 2 and just kill them." Sometimes they would hide in their houses for hours and no one could make a sound. The children would not cry or speak, only gesture when they needed food or water! They spent hours just lying flat on the floor praying that their lives would be spared because no one would notice that. What unimaginable pain and suffering and sorrow. Neighbor turned against neighbor and there was no one you could trust. As Marie shared these stories with me I was filled with compassion for the parents…all of them have been through such trauma and heartache and there is so much healing that still needs to happen.

Maybe a little attitudinal change from us as rich Americans as well; and we are rich. Most of us are among the 10% of the world's population. We might struggle to pay the bills but our bills have numbers on them that many here couldn't imagine making in a month or even two. We are rich and we can be so generous…but if we thought about it honestly we have prejudices against those who are poor. They should get a job…what if there are no jobs to be had? What if no one ever taught them how to even write or spell their own name? They should take better care of their children…what if they are working as hard as they can and still their children go to bed hungry every night? I face some of my own prejudices everyday! Today on the road I met a man who was begging. I did what I have been taught to do…do not make eye contact but he kept pleading. I heard that small voice inside say, Cari, look at this man, show him the dignity and respect that I would show him…I did not. I did not want to engage in conversation. I wanted to avoid the mess. He started yelling at me "Can't you see I'm begging here!" and still I ignored him, I chose to look away. The words that came out of his mouth next were horrible and painful. I could have at least looked him in the eye…instead I ignored him. I face my own prejudices about poverty everyday here. I cannot ignore it for long, it's right outside the window. I guess I'm in for a bit more attitudinal change myself.

PS The World Cup Finals are on Sunday. I am not a soccer fan but I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the shouting and celebration on the street and everywhere when a goal is scored. Especially if it is a goal by an African team; yet there are no African teams left but the cheering and the excitement is still amazing. It's like the Super Bowl everyday for a month. It will be sad to see it go BUT I notice that there is a better chance we'll have power when there is no soccer game to be watched so I am looking forward to the possibility of MPA every night! I'll keep dreaming…