Life Without Hope!

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John Bowes, the chairman of the parent company of Wham-O, the maker of Frisbees, once participated in a charity effort. 

He sent thousands of the plastic flying discs to an orphanage in Angola, Africa. He thought the children there would enjoy playing with them.

Several months later, a representative of Bowes’ company visited the orphanage. One of the nuns thanked him for the wonderful “plates” that his company had sent them. She told him the children were eating off the Frisbees, carrying water with them, and even catching fish with them. 

When the representative explained how the Frisbees were intended to be used, the nun was even more delighted that the children would also be able to enjoy them as toys.

On one level, that story is rather amusing. On another, it is very sad.  There are people who would prize even our cast-off items, who would be grateful to eat what we throw away.

A scene like this, changed the direction of my life 20 years ago. I had just gotten off the plane in the Dominican Republic at 3:00 pm in the afternoon. My SUV driver asked me if I wanted to drive through the bateyes, the little towns along the sugarcane fields where Haitians were working for $1 a day? This was my very first exposure to extreme, material poverty. With great hesitation, I whispered “Yes.”

For the next four hours we traveled on paths strewn with huge potholes. Just two hours away from Ft. Lauderdale, I thought I was on another planet. We traveled through dozens of little god-forsaken bateyes. Children without clothes, “old” men and women who were probably half my age. Many came up to the closed windows of our air-conditioned SUV and peered in. All of their eyes and faces were searching for a world that they had never seen. 

But what hit me in the deepest part of my being was that not a single face, young or old, had an ounce of hope as it was looking at me. This was much more than I could endure. It changed the direction of my life. I don’t have a lot to give, but I can give a bit of hope to those who have none. 

Early in our journey we passed a boy on the back of a donkey, plodding along ever so slowly. Three hours later on our return trip we again passed the boy. I asked my driver to stop and ask the boy where he was going and what he was doing. Every day the boy traveled to the hotels in Punta Cana where he picked up the scraps of food that were thrown out. He put them in his saddle bag and brought them back to his village so the people could eat. 

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I was in an nice air-conditioned SUV just two hours away from Ft. Lauderdale witnessing a world that I had always tried to avoid.  THERE WAS MORE FRUIT IN MY HAIR SHAMPOO THAN ON THIS BOY’S PLATE.

How are YOU moved when YOU see hopelessness on the face of a person standing next to YOU?


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