Summary: This starts with a story of a young boy who has a pivotal moment that changes the focus of his whole life. Just as the blind mans interaction with Jesus changed his.
When you think about the narrow streets of Paris at night, under the glow of the sparkling Eiffel tower, with a chilly summer breeze blowing down the promenade that sends lovers close together, you might find it romantic and enchanting. But pan out, to a 12-year-old boy…sitting alone on a bench, shivering from the chill and shaking from hunger and you would have a different story… but even the small boy would have no way of knowing that the story that happened that night would change his whole life. He is my brother. And this is his story.
To say we grew up poor isn’t entirely fair. We were, in fact very poor. But I didn’t know better. My parents were extremely resourceful. Both were good with their hands, and both worked hard. My mother could cook beans in varied and tasty ways so it didn’t even feel like we were eating the same thing. Summers were spent canning and foraging and preserving the free fruit of our land. My dad built us toys, my mother sewed us clothes…and we didn’t feel poor…That was until we went out into the world. I remember whispers from others, the cool girls of the 80’s would size up my homespun clothes and snicker “prairie girl”. But most of the time I didn’t mind because we were rich in things they knew nothing about…
My Grandparents were missionaries for 50 years, 25 years in Rwanda Africa, and as my parents were always believers in experiences instead of things, we were rich in those and I’m certain that was the reason behind my parents letting my brother travel to Rwanda… the spring my brother turned 12 my Granny and Grandpa sent him a ticket to spend the summer with him. This being the 80’s before the birth of modern terrorism and 911, airlines were much more lax on the restrictions of unaccompanied minors. Stevie had a 24 hour layover in Paris France. Being of Wallace blood and adventurous of spirit. My 12-year-old brother decided he wanted to see Paris and not just the airport. So he exited the airport into the streets of Paris, using his very meager spending money, that would have covered a small meal or two, given to him by my parents, for transportation. It’s hard to wrap my mind around it now as a parent…how I would feel if I knew that my child was alone in the world somewhere, without resources, in such a vulnerable state…but then again, my parents did know and my brother is a tough cookie.
My mother very genererously has passed on to my oldest brother and myself a very fragile state of being when we reach a critical point of time between meals…the modern term for this is Hangry I believe…but I always call it unstable. Dustan knows that if I reach that level of instability its time to find food. For I’m no fun at all to deal with until I get some. Stevie is also like this and recalls sitting on a bench and looking down at his shaking hands and crying. He hadn’t eaten for nearly 20 hours. To distract himself he got up to walk and found himself very much in something like a scene out of Les Mis standing outside a lighted bakery window. Filled with crusty sweet-smelling French baguettes and rounds of red wax wrapped cheese. His stomach groaned and he reached into his pockets one more time…to pull out nothing…but a ticket on the public train back to the airport. He stood there a very long time and if you were to ask him today, how he felt, he will tell you, there was a clear thought in his mind. “I am very hungry, I am poor and I have no money. I am afraid. Someday, when I am grown…I will make so much money, that I will never have to fear this feeling again.”
There are in each one of us, those things that threaten to define us. Those moments of helplessness in the circumstances and sometimes even the mistaken choices of our lives. The things that those who do not protect us, use to describe us…the names our own gremlins of shame repeatedly play in our own head….words like poor. selfish. calloused. Timid. Hard. Weak. bulldozer. Manipulative. Insensitive. Easily offended. Lier. Addict. Hypocrite.
For the man born blind it didn’t matter much which one it was…for it was likely assumed it was all, or a linage of deep seeded sin that was then passed on to him through his parents. The justice of God required punishment…so if you were suffering it was because you had disobeyed. They had a very strong message of prosperity woven through their teachings that the good came to the good and the bad came to the bad. Somehow, they had drastically missed the boat on the concept of sin and suffering in the nature of man and the world as a whole, which impacts both the innocent and the guilty…but then again that isn’t surprising as they missed the salvific sacrifice of Jesus for that very reason.