When I was living in Puerto Quito in January, I lived next door to a large family in a small wooden house. There were 13 people in total living in this little house, including one grandma, 3 daughters with severe physical disability with 3 children of their own, 1 daughter who is a widow with 5 children, and 1 young son who is behind in his education. In all, seven children roamed the property always ready to play, while the rest mostly stayed in the house, as only one of the daughters could work.
So, when I moved alone into the little cement house next door, it was like two polar opposites: gringo single guy next door to struggling poor Ecuadorian family of 13. Something had to give!
Well, after I got a mosquito net for my bed and the lightbulbs I needed, I thought, well, I wonder if my neighbors need those things, I can afford to buy a few more. So, I stopped by and asked what they needed for mosquito nets and lightbulbs, and after a trip to the city, they got what they needed. I bought a plastic dresser for my room, and I thought, I wonder if my neighbors need one, I can afford to buy another one. So, yes, they had nowhere to put their clothes, so one day a few friends showed up in their car and delivered a new plastic dresser.
But one evening early on, I was heading out when the grandmother asked me if she could borrow ten dollars to get food for the family. I gave her the ten, not expecting to see it again. But I started to think, I wonder if they have food. I have enough food every day, and I can afford to buy some extra food.
So the next night, I decided that I would bring a whole rotisserie chicken for them as a gift. I got back around 8pm and called out from the entrance, and gave the chicken to one of the kids. From the heat of the bag they knew what it was, and he ran into the house.
I went to my house and then I realized that I had no food myself. I hadn’t picked up anything for myself, and I hadn’t been cooking and didn’t have anything in the house – for a whole number of reasons. So, I sat down in a chair and silently hoped that my neighbors might invite me over to eat!
A few minutes later, I heard a knock on the door. “Jeronimo!” Yeah? “My grandma says come over and eat.” OK.
So, I went over and they pulled out a plastic chair for me on a small wooden table, and they served me a piece of the chicken I brought along with some rice they already had. Everyone got the same thing: a part of the chicken plus some rice. The drink was a cup of instant coffee That was the meal.
As we all ate together, I realized that if I hadn’t brought that chicken, there wouldn’t have been dinner that night.
So, that began a new habit. When I would come home, I would bring chicken, or tuna, or eggs, or fruits and vegetables, whatever, and I would give it to the family. Then, I would go into my house and wait. Eventually, I would get a knock on the door.
Evening after evening, we ate together. I don’t have to tell you that, when it was time for me to leave at the end of the month, we were all sad.
The reason I write this is because there is a story in the Gospel about a rich man and a poor man Lazarus. Lazarus is outside the house of the rich man, and the rich man gives him nothing to eat. Then, after they both die, the rich man is in fire and suffering like crazy and now he’s the beggar, while poor Lazarus is now comfortable with everything he wants. Everything’s been reversed! But here’s the problem:
There a barrier between them.
The rich guy can’t go over to Lazarus, and Lazarus can’t go over to the rich guy.
You might say, God put the barrier in between. OK. Or maybe Abraham. Ehhh. The passage doesn’t say who put the barrier there. But I think I know who put the barrier there:
The rich guy. It’s the same barrier he put up a long time before.
There will be a day when everything will be reversed. “Many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mt 19:30) If you are comfortable now and are not in dire need of anything, the day will come when that is not the case. If you have retirement money, someday you won’t. If you have food, likewise. Internet, work, friends, family, house, time, someday you won’t have them. And those who didn’t have, they will have them. Yes, it is probably the least talked about reality from the Gospel, especially in the richer countries like the States and Europe: Everything is going to be reversed. “You in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Lk 16:25-26)
The question is going to be, do you get the knock on the door, the invitation to come and eat with the people who didn’t have, but now do?
Or is there an impassable barrier?
Did you share?
“Give, and it will be given to you… for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Lk 6:38)
Come and check out more on the mission in Ecuador – including opportunities to share – at my other blog www.barriers2bridges.com