I Flew South for the Winter

I took flight and south with the birds. I left my cold, snowy, mountainous home in north western China and headed to warmth, poverty, and humility than I’ve ever known in Bangladesh.

Being there taught me that just as a folded garment has many folds, so holds each experience in our lives. There is much I learned, much more than I could even begin to explain, but I shall share a few new creases in the garment I wear called life.

Saying I was poor in college is inaccurate.

Saying I’m starving before a meal is inaccurate.

Saying I’m sick as a dog when I have a cold (or even the flu) is inaccurate.

I sat with malnourished children, who know no different.

I saw young pregnant women who are afraid that eating too much will make their baby fat and cause them a hard delivery.

I entered homes built with mud bricks and date tree leaf thatched roofs.

I ate biscuits and drank tea from some of the poorest women I’ve ever met.

I heard laughter from little girls who had been brought out of brothels and into the safety of an all girl’s home.

I watched as people burned their dead family member.

I wept with a dying man.

Bangladesh taught me to use my words wisely; to be more generous with my time and my laughter, to love those unknown to the rest of the world.

I would love to say I lived among them, but that would do them an injustice, at best I lived near them in a more comfortable situation. To many a month of cold showers, no wifi, washing clothes by hand, sleeping in a concrete room, traveling roads that are dirty and broken … is counted as living among them.

But it is something altogether different to sit in numerous unfinished homes in a village as women bring out any tea or biscuits they have. Like a mirror forcefully thrown to the ground, it breaks your heart into tiny shards that threaten to be broken smaller still…

Standing on their broken roads looking at the water pumps awkwardly positioned between groups of homes, because those homes don’t have running water. Watching the women bucket bathe their children under the pumps, carry large clay or metal pots of water back to theirs homes to be boiled and made safe for drinking. To see them hand washing the little clothing they have right there at the pump; thankful, truly thankful, they have access to water so near…

To walk into a girls’ home full of little girls and young women whose mothers are prostitutes, to see that they have hope of an education. Hope of a future unlike the past of their mothers. Knowing that there are more girls waiting to come. Waiting for space at the home. Rejoicing that the sister of one of these girls was rescued from being trafficked. Knowing there are more like her. Tears welling up in your eyes, anger swelling in your heart at the injustice of these little girls’ pasts…

Holding babies and seeing pregnant women waiting to give birth in an orphanage. Looking in the faces of the babies as your told most of these children will grow up without families. Then choosing to hold as many of them as you can so none of them are left never having been loved…

Seeing an uncountable number of mangled homeless people, knowing that many of their injuries came from the “shelters” in which the stay. The gang members and “shelter” workers maiming them to turn higher profits from them on the streets. Being told that giving money to the maimed, the homeless, the children will only continue the vicious cycle. Choosing instead to carry extra biscuits to give to children that beg and look hungry. Watching some of those children take the snack and try to exchange it for money, while others eat it as fast as their hungry little bodies can chew and swallow…

Realizing that to make an impact, to make a difference, all that is required is parting with a few resources, giving my full self, and leting go of ridiculous self absorbed things.

To be there and want to fix all the problems but realizing there wouldn’t be a problem if people loved, truly loved each other.

Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

When you love someone or something, you do not actively try to destroy it. You do not disregard it; as so many people in Bangladesh were tossed to the side to be someone else’s problem or dealing. To love, to truly love someone is to serve them. It fulfills the law. You do not murder someone you love. You do not commit adultery against someone you really love. You do not … fill in the blank.

As I walked the streets, I realized something was missing. Something was causing this problem.

Love.

Bangladesh taught me what it is to love a place, a people that I know so little about.

I flew south for the winter, with the birds that migrated.