The drastic contrasts we experience in our life in Madagascar on a daily basis is phenomenal and sometimes overwhelming. The cold of our air conditioned car to the oppressive heat outside, the filth on the streets to the cleanliness of a nice restaurant, but by and far, the biggest contrast we’re faced with daily is the extreme poverty and the rich. In America, we’re not rich… we’re middle class folks. In Madagascar however, we’re instantly elevated to the affluent. It’s a position that we’re not really comfortable with but it’s our position nonetheless because of the extreme poverty that we live amongst.
This weekend we’ve been in the capital city, Antananarivo. The contrasts here are even more abundant than in our city of Mahajanga. Fancy cars traveling amongst ravaged rickshaws, massive houses backed up to tiny shacks, men and women in glamorous clothes walking past families dressed in tattered clothing, sitting on the ground, dirty, begging.
Over time, it’s easy to grow somewhat, but not totally accustomed to the extreme contrasts — perhaps a protective mechanism, perhaps because it’s such the normal landscape of our lives. Yet there are times, daily really, that I’m hit with the realities of the extremes, the realities of how richly we’ve been blessed. Yesterday was such a day.
We were parked in front of a fruit stand in the capital. Jamie was picking up a few avocados, bananas and papayas. I was sitting in the passenger seat, the three kids in the backseat, each in their car seat. The girls were watching a movie after a long day of travel, Gavin was playing with a toy. The four of us, comfortable in our car, in the A/C, listening to music. Three young school-age boys approached the passenger side of the car, hands outstretched, eyes empty and saddened, the look of the begging child. Gavin, now 19 months, was sitting behind me. When he saw the boys approach, he got excited, kicking his feet, smiling, happy, chattering away… speaking in a language that only he can understand at this time. Gavin, content, nourished, safe, provided for. 1,000 worlds separated him from the three boys on the other side of the car. Our son, born into privilege, born into a loving home with two parents, born into an educated family, a family with opportunities. Our son, playing with and laughing with these three boys that were likely born into very different circumstances. It is times like these that I’m overwhelmed by God’s goodness and the gifts he has given us, gifts we have not deserved any more than anyone else. My children could have been born into very different circumstances and at the tender age of 6 or 7 or 8 years old, could be standing on the corner, hands outstretched to a passerby, begging for anything that may help to eat dinner that night. I’m thankful that at this time, our son doesn’t see the drastic differences of our lives circumstances. Instead, I imagine, he only sees boys like him, and unknowingly to his 19 month old mind, boys that were created by the same God and dearly loved by the same Heavenly Father.
These contrasts are hard to stomach, hard to process in my mind and in my heart. One thing I can and will do is praise God and humbly accept the blessings He has gifted us with.