On any given day in the US, one can read or hear about the declining state of families, particularly children, in our country. I do not need to remind anyone of the dismal statistics about child suicide, drug use, and depression, all on the rise, seemingly affecting all regions and demographics. With that in mind, I have been compelled to write of the children of Dili, who I see, hear and wonder at each day.
We live our lives here in the midst of children, and I can’t help but notice how markedly different and joyful these children are. At any time of the day, or early evening, large groups of boys in particular, are at the neighborhood soccer court, kicking a heavily abused,semi-inflated soccer ball with worn seams unraveling, screaming at the top of their lungs in delight. They race across the cement, all of them shoeless all of the time, across the dirt and stones, in the middle of the street, with looks of such total joy, I am always brought to an interior posture of reverence, kneeling before the grace of God working here. He is surely touching me each time this happens, He is surely telling me, wake up, look at what I have done! Open your eyes and see. Be at peace and be like these children.
If the rains come in torrents, the streets fill with screaming children, jumping about, splashing, oblivious to the garbage now afloat, having far more fun that any child I ever saw at Disney World. Far more fun. No whining, no sour looks, no temper tantrums, just delight in the rain and the joy of being alive.
For many, their toys are acquired from the local garbage pile, two houses from ours, where they compete with the dogs for anything of value, edible and otherwise. Their ingenuity is amazing. Empty water bottles are cut open and become scoopers to throw things at each other. Or stylish footwear made by crushing the bottle and sliding your foot under the blue plastic label. Sometimes they are used to manuever an old tire down the street. An elastic apple protector becomes a pink bracelet, and bits of shiny paper are wadded up and thrown at any target that isn’t too large to fight back. Nylon nets for fruit become hairnets. Pools of muddy water in the middle of the street provide as much satisfaction as any water park back home.
And, most striking of all, the foreign woman on the purple bike always elicits cries of malae, malae (foreigner), with full body waves and squeals of delight when I wave back. I will never, ever understand why my acknowledgment of their cries brings so much delight. A simple raising of my arm and “eeehhhh!” Who could imagine I could bring such cheap thrills by my mere presence? (and how in the world will I return to being a nobody inEast Lansing?)
Taking photos of children for this post has increased my popularity, no doubt. You will notice that the boys almost always strike a rap pose. Where in the world did they learn that? Not from their grandmothers. Television and the Internet have brought a strange blending of cultures, a most mixed blessing for developing countries and their children. While the parents may well be illiterate, the children are increasingly fed a daily diet of commercials, music, and images conveying values of cynicism, violence, materialism, and worse. And the parents have absolutely no idea what is going on and why should they be concerned anyway?
Pray for the children of Timor. May the delight they take in life, in the simplest of pleasures, not be taken from them. May God help them and may they know the value of His blessings. [posted by Rory]