Who knew there were starfish in India?
The light of my life this past month has undoubtedly been 15 beautiful little girls in India. A few years back, our church partnered with a local ministry based in India to build a children’s home for abandoned girls. There, females are not valued as much as males, so there tends to be a high population of homeless and abandoned females. Some of the girls now living at the children’s home came from physically abusive backgrounds and wear their scars blatantly on their faces. Some of them were abandoned by their families who couldn’t afford to care for all of their children and their scars are a bit more covert. Some were even going to be killed at birth or sold to a brothel, but their parents were convinced to allow their daughter to be cared for at the children’s home instead. No matter what their background, these girls would have led unimaginably horrid lives, if they’d even survived at all. But because regular everyday people cared enough to invest in them, I saw with my own eyes how these girls are now growing into the lovely young ladies God has created them to be.
The children’s home is situated on a lush, calm, quiet, and secure property where the girls can be free to run and play without fear of harm. It is so peaceful there that I frequently would lose track of time, just enjoying the fresh air and the sunlight. But beyond the borders of that property, nothing could describe the environment better than the word chaos. Dirt, fumes, trash, human waste, noise, and constant commotion characterize the streets of the city, and that’s the pretty decent, middle-class part of town. In this part of town, we saw many people regularly urinating and allowing their children to defecate on the side of the road, in plain view of all the cars crammed into rush-hour traffic. We passed by a huge trash heap where a mangy dog, a scrawny cow, an elderly man, and a young child around 4 years old were all side by side digging through it. I assume they were looking for something to eat, although it’s possible they could have simply been passing the time. Either way…what kind of life are they living, that small children and old men have been brought down to the level of scroungy animals wandering in the street?
When I think of that stark contrast, I really get a picture of the world the girls could have lived in, and I’m so thankful for the healthy upbringing they will now enjoy. What an incredible difference. I am humbled to be a very small part of that difference, and when I think of how little it really costs me, not only in actual money but in time and energy, it’s truly nothing at all. For less than the amount that Todd and I will spend when we go out to dinner with friends, or the amount I would spend on a new pair of shoes, each month I can help provide a safe home, medical care, a private education, and a loving environment to a little girl whose family could not take care of her. And best of all, this little girl will someday know that her life was changed, not because of me, but because of Jesus. I am devoting my life to following Him and He says that if I so much as give a cup of water to these little ones who need love & care, I am doing the same to Him.
I know there are thousands of children out there who may not get the same opportunities as these girls, other children who I will never have the opportunity to help. My world is small and my resources are limited. And that breaks my heart. But if every one of us looked out into our world and fixed our eyes on just one face…one child or one homeless person or one mentally disabled neighbor or one lonely widow or one depressed teenager or one man who just lost a job or one woman who society has given up on…if we just focused on extending the love and mercy that Jesus has extended to us…if we just decided to make some tiny sacrifice for the sake of that one… then we could all make a big, big difference.
The 15 beautiful girls there at the children’s home reminded me of a little modern parable that has been circulating in many forms over the past several years. It goes a little something like this:
One morning an elderly man was walking on a nearly deserted beach. He came upon a boy surrounded by thousands and thousands of starfish that had washed up onto the beach at high tide. As eagerly as he could, the youngster was picking them up one by one and throwing them back into the ocean.
Puzzled, the older man looked at the young boy and asked, “Little boy, what are you doing?”
The youth responded without looking up, “I’m trying to save these starfish, sir.”
The old man chuckled aloud, and queried, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you possibly make?”
Holding a starfish in his hand, the boy turned to the man and, gently tossing the starfish into the water, said, “It made a difference to that one!”
Whether you are tired of hearing that little story or not, I pray that none of us ever get tired of hearing the message it conveys. I pray that I never get tired of hearing that message. I pray that we all find our starfish, and let Jesus show us exactly how to throw it back into the ocean.