Monday, 1 May 2017

Life’s Not Fair!

My grandpa often used to say, “Life’s not fair!". Sometimes this would be in reference to me being able to eat lots of pudding and cake but not seeming to put on weight. I didn’t mind too much about life not being fair in this regard! I just continued to enjoy all things sweet.

My grandpa Howard with my cousin

Recently I was thinking about this saying when I saw one of our elderly guardians doing some piece work in the school grounds. He was spending the day slashing grass, which is physically very demanding in the hot sunshine, as well as being an extremely monotonous job. For a day's work, he will earn 25 kwacha (just under £2.50). 

Slashing grass

Recently the man turned up for work late and said it was because he was cooking nshima for his wife who is physically unable to cook for herself. One of the Zambian members of our Arise team told him off and emphasised that if he wants to work he must prioritise it and get up earlier to cook for his wife so that he can get to work on time. I felt bad for him knowing his circumstances, but the next day he turned up on time and did the job with more dignity. He was glad for the opportunity to earn some money. We made sure we provided a decent lunch for him because it’s one way we can help him whilst still keeping in line with local wages.

The gentleman with his wife and one of their friends

This man is one of the guardians in our Arise project. He lives with his elderly wife who suffered a stroke some years ago, leaving her unable to speak properly or use one side of her body. She shuffles around the house or sits outside, and uses a wheelchair around the village. They are guardians to two young boys, their grandchildren. The boys’ mother (their daughter) is an alcoholic who doesn’t look after her sons and sadly their father abandoned the family.

Visiting the family

Life is without doubt difficult for this family. It is a daily struggle to provide food, even though Arise helps a little with this. Bringing up the boys is a challenge; as they are young they have lots of energy and no experience of boundaries – they wander around the village rather than spending their free time at home. Although it isn’t legal, it is culturally acceptable here to beat children and this is the only punishment method that many adults are aware of, or believe to be effective.

The boys are sponsored through Arise to attend Kapumpe Christian Primary School 

This particular family live in a small house in a rural, impoverished area next to the Congolese border. The majority of homes in this area are small mud brick and thatched houses. The houses are in close proximity to each other and the area is densely populated. It is a close-knit community and the HIV rate is said to be 50%. 

A typical house in the area

So whilst this gentleman was slashing grass, I returned to the Arise office after having a nice lunch in my own apartment. I thought about how I have been able to choose to move to another country and use my education and experiences to do a job of my choice. Life most certainly isn’t fair.

Arise office

Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile the way that people live in such different economic circumstances, particularly when it does not seem to be due to any choice they themselves have made. One of the things that helps me to live with this unfairness is the belief that this life is not all there is. I recently read a great book by Andrew and Rachel Wilson called ‘The Life You Never Expected’ (2015), which explores faith and suffering. They suggest that, "although we’re not able to imagine a world where all suffering is made up for, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen, it just means our minds are limited".

I know not everyone will find solace in this or agree with my view. But a hope of heaven is how I live with the discomfort of life not being fair. This is described in a poignant quote from the Russian novel, 'The Brothers Karamazov': 

I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a mindful pitful mirage...that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all crimes of humanity, of all the blood they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.

Children in the village

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