Saturday night I hosted a sleepover. Because sleepovers are so much fun and because apparently seven hours a day five days a week with my students is not enough. Saturday night a friend of mine and I climbed on a moto and went to pick up two of my precious students (and one big sister). My friend recently moved to a city a couple of hours away (where I was last weekend!) and she was here for a surprise visit, so when we rolled up in front of house #1 the mama of my student was pretty excited to see us. She invited us in to sit and chat. She and my visiting friend are pretty close, so at one point they went off to continue chatting and I, as I do, stayed with the kiddos.
I was standing in the doorway of the house watching my student chase her sister and I thought about those pitiful images you see in commercials asking you to feed the children. I thought about how if I took a picture right in that moment and captured this one second of my student’s life, she might look pitiful too. She was running over the broken pieces of cement and rock that make up her yard. I was standing in the doorway of the one room house she shares with her mom and her sister. They don’t have running water or reliable electricity. If I took one picture of a beautiful child standing among broken pieces of cement and rock and told you she lives in a one room house with her mom and her sister where they don’t have running water or reliable electricity, it would be an easy sell. “Feed the children!” “Look what I’m doing here!” “Donate now!”
But that snapshot, that second in time, would only tell one tiny piece of this little girl’s story.
Looking at a picture of her standing in her yard of broken cement and rocks you wouldn’t see how she looks running around the playground at school with her friends. You wouldn’t see her sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework. You wouldn’t see her mom going to work every day to provide for her daughters. You wouldn’t see how adorable she is practicing her English and how proudly she asks, “Can I go to the bathroom?” You wouldn’t see her at church singing her little heart out about a God who is mighty to save. You wouldn’t see her mom getting baptized.
The thing about those kinds of pictures is that they are really good at eliciting our pity. But my girl is not to be pitied. She is not a child to whom you pass out candy one week on a mission trip and then never see again. She is not a poster child for poverty. Her life is not perfect, no, but it is full. Of friends and family and laughter and learning. She is strong. She is beloved. She is more than a picture.