My Dad has been living and working in Bangalore, India for the past year. I’ve had the privilege over Skype to hear some of his reflections every few Saturdays over many months.
I think he is a man of deep thought. Of brilliant revelations. A man of God. And this latest poem on his blog shows me some of what is brewing in his heart. It isn’t easy mulling over the the unsettling chasm between rich and poor (and perhaps markedly more difficult in a place like India where everything is more in-your-face). This poem is beautiful and frightening. And one that compels me to try to find more practical ways to act justly and be merciful with great love.
You, the poorest of the poor, have no weapons, no rights, no access to legal decisions. Your knives are too dull to cut dry bread for your children, let alone an aggressor’s wrist or throat.
You have a voice, but it is ignored, drowned out by louder voices demanding more for less.
You, the poorest of the poor, take up space.
If you, the poorest of the poor, leave your space you may be viewed as trouble makers, aggressors, terrorists, even though their rightful space was stolen from you years ago and sold to the highest bidder, or lowest bidder with the biggest gun, sharpest sword, biggest stone.
What would happen to you the poorest of the poor, if in the same moment you…
Stood to your feet, walked head held high, stepped out of the slums onto the highway and walked towards the international airport; walked shoulder to shoulder the breadth and length of the runway, wave after wave at night into the path of an incoming flight full of business and tourist travelers pursuing exponential profits, unlimited pleasures?
You may not want to know.
You may or may not want to take that risk.
You, the poorest of the poor, are not alone. You have each other.
Millions of you, according to newspapers, magazines, government reports, and websites, indicate your numbers are many, you may become the majority (which means that there may be more of you then them – the others – those who think you are nothing, powerless, valueless, not worthy of investment, donations, transfer of funds, profit sharing, sharing, intervention or initiative of any kind, until you show that you are a living being capable of doing something at lowest cost for another’s highest profit.
What, if anything, would happen if you, the poorest of the poor, if in the same moment, you…
Stood to your feet and stamped the ground once?
Stood to your feet, stamped the ground and clapped your hands?
Stood to your feet, stamped the ground, clapped your hands, and shouted, “My turn!” and repeated it 59 times.
Stood to your feet, marched on the spot for an hour, a day, a day and a night?
Would anyone hear?
Would the ground move or the earth shake?
Would anyone care?
You, the poorest of the poorest not only have each other. You take up space.
What would happen if a billion of you stood in bare feet, stomped the ground, clapped your hands and shouted at the same time? Your silence becoming noise, a growl spreading fear, an earthquake shredding slum tents, and flattening the walled estate homes on the horizon across the polluted canal flowing into a cesspool called a lake at the edge of your neighborhood slum.
What would happen if a billion of you placed two empty pop cans on the sun baked ground, stomped your right foot on one, and your left foot on the other? Then did it again, and again.
It may or may not start or end a war. It might speak to you if not anyone else. You would hear the sound of your stamping feet, your hands clapping, your shouts; the crackling sound of your feet crushing recycled metal. You would know you are alive. With life comes risks, opportunities, hope.
What message would you send?
What message would be heard by you and others?
What might happen next?
You may not want to know.
You mayor not be willing to take a risk,
and see what happens next.
But then again, you might.