Yesterday, Kaitlin and I were able to go out on a crisis call with the Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) at Bringing Hope to the Family (a Ugandan nonprofit that Embrace Uganda partners with here in Kaihura). Kaitlin and I hopped on a boda (which is a motorcycle, Uganda’s form of a taxi) and rode down to the girl’s house. The girl’s name is Irene, and she is 17 years old. Her child, Simon Peter, is currently 9 months old. Both of Irene’s parents have passed away, and she is currently living with her grandmother. The father of the child is refusing to claim that the child is his, so Irene and her grandmother are having to provide all of the caregiving and necessities for Simon Peter. The CPC worked with Irene during her pregnancy to ensure a safe and hygienic delivery and is now actively working to get her enrolled in a vocational school to learn hairdressing. In Uganda, if a girl becomes pregnant while in school whether by consensual sex or rape, she is, by law, not allowed to attend anymore and is promptly kicked out of school (I know, so infuriating.) Vocational schools provide girls a second chance at making a living for themselves after pregnancy by teaching them various trades.
It was a pleasure to be able to meet with Irene and her grandmother. Her child seemed happy and healthy, and Irene was excited at the idea of having an opportunity to further her education. As we were getting up to leave, the grandmother walked in with a bag full of mangoes for us to take home as a thank you for providing for her granddaughter. We were so touched. Then, she walked out of the kitchen with a pineapple, and it almost brought me to tears. It’s not that a pineapple is somehow a more emotional fruit than a mango, but the sacrifice of giving a pineapple shows true generosity. You see, it takes a year and a half for a pineapple to fully mature. And every pineapple plant only produces one pineapple at a time, which means that this family had been waiting a year and a half to be able to enjoy the treat of this sweet pineapple. In a country without excess, this pineapple would have brought great joy to this family. But without hesitation, the grandmother gave us this precious gift as a sign of her gratitude. And it wasn’t done with a bitter heart, it wasn’t done because she felt that she had to…she was smiling. She was overjoyed to be able to give us something that had such value to her and her family. And in that moment, I was totally overwhelmed by what it would mean to have a heart that generous.
Which led me to the question…what has happened to us, America? Why do we hold onto our possessions with clenched fists and cheat ourselves of the joy of giving? Since when is making someone smile or providing for someone’s needs less important than a weekend getaway or the newest iPhone? When did we become so backwards? In “The Irresistible Revolution”, Shane Claiborne says, “Giving is a joy, not a burden. If we can’t give our possessions away, then they possess us. If we aren’t careful, the things we own begin to own us. The way we give money and possessions power is by holding them with clenched fists. On the flip side, the way we take away their power is by holding them with open hands and giving them away winsomely. If love fuels us, then our impulse becomes sharing.”
My encouragement to you is that our possessions don’t have to possess us! When we start giving with open hands and sharing our resources with others, we won’t have to have organizations like Embrace Uganda because all will have what they need to survive. All will have access to education, clean water, medical care, and enough food to live a healthy lifestyle. I’m not convinced that God created a world without enough resources to provide for everyone, I just think that we who have excess have justified the ideology of a closed fist. And because of that, we have poverty. So I urge you, consider what the things are that you really put value in. Though you may value someone having their needs provided for, are you willing to sacrifice in order to see that need met? Are you willing to give up your pineapple?