I knew the day would come when I would be able to write about this. It’s taken some time, but I’m finally ready.
Some years ago I joined an outreach to an impoverished area in the Philippines. We were there for several days, and after some time I noticed a trend.
I noticed that the long lines of people outside the building waiting to be served moved at a snail’s pace. But we were moving fast inside. How could that be? Curious, I took short walks outside. And heard people grumbling. They’ve been waiting for hours. But how could that be?
Back inside, I began to notice the same last names on the registration forms, and on the back of those forms were scribbled notes of the person’s importance. Like, “Mayor’s nephew.” I thought it was amusing. At first.
And then, perhaps because I was made more aware of it, I started to study the faces of those waiting outside, to see how long it took for them to get inside. It took forever. But things really were moving fast inside. That was too weird. So I checked. And yes, there was a back door. And people were being let in. I finally put two and two together. I was mad as heck.
It had dawned on me, what was really happening. Which led to an angry encounter when, at the end of our stay, I refused to go to an event hosted by those people with connections.
See, one of them saw red at what he thought was, I suppose, insubordination. He started yelling at me. I was questioning his orders? No one dared do that! He said he was an important person, and he wouldn’t be in his position if people didn’t believe in him. How dare I stand up against him? I tried to explain myself. He yelled louder. I got so mad I started crying.
We were drawing a crowd. I drew a few sympathetic stares. And I barely got a word in above the man’s tirade. But I held my ground. I didn’t go to the event, and I cut my ties with the people involved. Principles intact.
The ugliest part, I think, to standing up for what you believe in is that you will be subject to abuse from those that disagree with you. The hardest part? Having to walk away, because some people are willing to go down to levels you won’t.
But why do it? Because I believe that the skills we have been blessed with, and the passions that drive us, call us to be a voice for the vulnerable. And though I drop the ball all the time, for all those times when I did see things through, I can honestly say that it was worth it. Yes, even for that one experience where I had a crowd witness my ugly crying face.
I guess it also explains why I don’t just hit like on social media to show my support/faith/whatever. Because life has taught me we don’t get a free pass to the joy of being useful. We actually have to be useful. And then that joy comes.