Structural violence, poverty and ribbon wrapped cookies (2011)

Today was a day when my heart bled more than usual. And I cry easily.  I was driving to work and had put a box of treats in that I had been given: 3 heart shaped cookies beautifully wrapped with a ribbon and 2 meringues also wrapped up – in my car simply cos I didn’t want to eat them.  I prayed and asked God to show me who to give them too.  Anyway, I had to drive a different route to the  office as the road was blocked off. This meant I stopped at a 4 way stop where I saw a guy sitting on the other side of the intersection.  My light was red, and I called him over – he was in his late 20’s with his shoulders hunched over, a tall guy, who must have been well built at a point in his life, but is now lanky and gaunt.  He charged across the intersection to me (I had lifted the box) and when I looked up at him, saw tears streaming down his cheeks.  And so much sadness and pain.  When I asked him what the tears were about, was he hungry, he just said yes, Yes.  This had me in tears as I drove off.  I had bitten into half a gingerbread man (just wanted a taste) and decided I didn’t want it and tossed it in the bin 20 minutes earlier.  I drove in tears and then decided that on all levels this was wrong.  So I stopped the car and looked for my water bottle and apple and went back to find him.  I told him that I was sorry that he, as a young man was hungry like he was, but that he also needed to know that God had seen him.  That this morning I had asked the Lord who I needed to give that food too.  It also meant I took the R 20 in my purse out and told him to go buy food.  His tears had stopped and he looked like he was a little amazed, and maybe it was more about the look on my face than anything I did. I think it was because God had seen him.  And he knew that as I told him.  I asked God to show me.  He got food, heart shaped cookies and meringues wrapped in gold ribbon.  More than that God showed him to me to give them to him.  Then I spent the rest of the day with Isaiah 58 playing over and over and over again in my head.

I have spent the rest of the day perplexed.  I stopped to put petrol in my car yesterday in Parktown North.  On checking that they had fuel was told, yes- we aren’t allowed to run out.  The people in this area need their petrol.  I am pretty sure that the people in poorer communities weren’t prioritized in the same way.  Or the trucks needing fuel to get food into the poorer communities. When I asked the attendant what that was about, he just shook his head and chuckled.  This country.  This country.  This is our country – the one we esteem with the Boks and the Proteas; who hosted the SWC 2010 and had the eyes of the world on us. We built mega –stadiums but no shelters for the homeless and seemingly no government structures in our communities to address this, other than to move them out of sight.

This is about structural violence.  The violence we can’t see physically happen, but we see physically manifest.  We see it in the men under trees in parks,  in the guys’ whose fathers never come home, in the empty eyes of the guy at the traffic light who is not 18 anymore and therefore doesn’t have a home because according to the law he is too old to be in a children’s home.  How much sadness and depression and dis-empowerment should be allowed to be held in our communities and do we actually see these guys?  Not just a group of vagrants, but a group of men with dreams and hopes once, before things went pear.  Before their lives became about survival and the streets.  It’s always easier not to see them, because then they are a group and a stat rather than something we need to respond to.

I don’t have the answers.  At the moment I just seem to have more questions.  And my heart is sore.

My question is God, what do I do with this now


One thought on “Structural violence, poverty and ribbon wrapped cookies (2011)

  1. Pingback: SA Bloggers – Structural violence, poverty and ribbon wrapped cookies (2011)

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