Tuesday December 19, 2000

Read: Isaiah 52:1-10

They didn't have any shoes to wear.

That wasn't the only difficulty in their lives, but maybe it was symbolic of the way they were forced to exist. They lived in the middle of the woods, on private property not their own, in corrugated tin shacks. According to the government, they could not live there. It didn't matter that the property owners allowed them to live there; it wasn't a "black" area. If they were discovered, soldiers would come through and forcibly remove them, leaving them with no place to live at all. With no place to live, they couldn't work, even at their low paying, backbreaking jobs. It wasn't allowed.

Their houses had walls and a roof, but they only partially kept out the cold and the rain. There were no lights, no running water, and no floors--though it wasn't because these amenities weren't available. The homes outside the woods had them, and in fact some of them were quite elegant. And it wasn't deep in the heart of some third world country. It was not too far from a well-developed city in a very modern country.

Decent housing wasn't all that was lacking--so was decent pay for their hard labor, opportunity to education their children, possibility of advancement in their jobs, access to medical or dental services, and much more!

To them we could only have been wealthy, privileged white kids. But they were glad to see us anyway! We were signs of hope to them. They believed that we had the power and good will to do something. They were anxious to tell us their stories, for they wanted us to understand their lives. They were ready with smiles for all of our cameras to capture. But what they really wanted us to see was that they didn't have any shoes to wear. --JAL

Prayer: God of the oppressed, even the Christ child was sent to a foreign land by oppressive forces. Help me to recognize oppressive forces in far away lands and in the lives of people I know. Help me to give up habits that cause oppression for others. Amen.

For your meditation:
Who are the oppressed? What are the forces that oppress them? What characteristics or circumstances make people susceptible to oppression?

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