Last night* I listened to a talk by David Gotts, who is the director of International China Concern, an organization who works with abandoned babies, children, and young people in China. It left me rather overwhelmed.
There are over one million children abandoned in China every year. Eighty percent of them die.
Dave described the scene at a particular orphanage in China... One worker caring for forty children, many of whom had some sort of mental or physical disability, or both. Four or five children sharing one wooden cot to sleep on. Children with disabilities sitting alone in the courtyard, tied to a chair, left there all day long and into the night. Children going wild when the meager meal was brought in, swarming the servers, stuffing the food into their mouths as fast as they could for fear another child would steal it from their hands; crawling along the filthy floor picking up any leftover grain of rice they could find - anything that they could put in their mouths. Bones that had been chewed clean and tossed on the floor would be picked up by someone else, sucked clean and tossed away once more, only to be picked up by another child, then another, then another. The light of hope extinguished from a child's eyes because they knew that they were most likely going to die. All humanity had gone from that place.
Then there was the shabby green door - a padlocked door to a room where the sickest or weakest children were put when there were simply too many children in the orphanage. It was off in a corner beside a noisy water system, which would drown out the sound of a child crying or pleading for food. Eventually, the child would stop crying, stop pleading, and quietly starve to death.
What kind of world lets children die, cold and alone, padlocked behind a door. What kind of world leaves a child on the street to die just because it's a girl and not a boy, or because the child has a disability? Why does God let this happen???
And it's not just in China. Things like this happen all over the world. Extreme poverty and suffering in India, in Africa, in South America... Even right here in my own neighbourhood. A homeless man died on Sunday morning on Hastings Street. He froze to death. What kind of world are we living in???
I cannot shake the image of that shabby green door. I don't think I want to. It's so easy to hear a story like that and feel so far removed from it. It's overwhelming. It's so far away. What could I possibly do? But I don't want to just slough it off, letting it bring a tear to my eye and then carrying on with my life as if it never happened. I want it to affect me, to motivate me to action. But I'm scared of what that means, and don't even know where to start...
* Originally posted December 6, 2005