The Dump, The Love
The day the dump reignited the passion for the cause to Shelter the World.
Updated: June 2016
It’s June already. My how time passes by us so quickly. I’m sitting here today pondering what to do with Shelter The World and my life. All the while the memories of that day back in 2011 are swirling in my head. I know I’ve said before that we must be careful about how we go about helping people living in poverty. As I get older, I become more aware of the fact that not everything is how it appears to be. Casually looking at something, like families living in poverty, and jumping to the conclusion that we MUST FIX how they live can get us in trouble quickly.
Right now, it’s 3:30 am, and I am worried. Worried that all these years of working to help others may be coming to an end. Concerned about Suzan, who bravely stares down a critical condition of which there is no escape. Worried that I may not get to experience another day like “that” day.
It is now 5:00 am and I haven’t moved very far even though a thousand thoughts have swirled through my mind since sitting down to write.
I wanted to write how the experiences of being with that family living in the dump still impact me to this day.
What was it about that day that makes it’s memory so acute? I mean I’ve been to other places where poverty was rampant. In some cases, living conditions were much harder than in the dump.
I’ve been to Cité Soleil; originally developed as a shanty town that grew to an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 residents, the majority of whom live in extreme poverty. The area is regarded as one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of the Western Hemisphere. (picture above)
Cool right? I mean if you are going to go all in to help people why not jump to the top, or the bottom in this case.
Another time I was staying at a place where a person was taken hostage right outside of our compound. Nothing more worrisome than having five black SUV’s roll up at 2 am with weapon brandishing men inside. That was a crazy night! The good news is the woman taken hostage was returned after a few days, unharmed. It seems this is a regular occurrence in those parts as many of the locals took it rather nonchalantly.
I’ve also been to areas so remote the current generation has never seen an American. Children did not know what a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy car was. That’s isolation.
Here too; Cool. If you are going to go all in you might as well go as remote as possible.
Or how about those days living in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Picture below) That was a crazy time. Living with a family deep in the heart of the favela. The panoramics of these slums are in some ways “beautiful” But dig deep into the nitty gritty and life unfolds in ways we often find impossible to relate to. (Picture to the left) We spent days without running water and no electricity. These outages occur regularly and you can image how pungent the odor is. It’s a constant, sweet, sticky, strange odor that is very hard to forget.
Donate Today and Lets really impact someone’s life! We’ll go if you support us!
But all this pales in comparison to being invited into that home. Why?
After all; there I was, armed and ready to impact these people’s lives. Fully confident of the fact that we can do a “dump makeover” and set these people in a direction that guarantees improvement.
What? What was it I was going to improve? Yes yes, it was their living “condition”. Something we all know a lot about. After all aren’t we always working on improving our situation? A better car, a newer house, how about an iphone?
But there was something else. Something, well, how should I say, spiritual.
So many things went wrong that trip that we weren’t able to accomplish a single goal. Everything got messed up (as it often does in developing countries). Items didn’t arrive, things held in customs until the customs official received a stipend. What? Yes, a bribe.
But in the end, all I could do was walk the dump and meet folks. Take it all in. And sure enough, that is what I did. And in the middle of it all, a woman living in the middle of mountains of debris invited me in.
It seemed so completely natural for her to demonstrate her hospitality. She wanted a visitor to stay with her for a while. She led the way into the kitchen and the one bedroom where there were two beds enclosed by wood with gaps wide open between the boards. (see below). There was no living room and everything looked pretty ragged except the curtains on the “open” windows. The child, who I think, was a four year old, has nothing new; no toys, no clothes, no swing set. I am pretty sure the child had no concept of brand new and the parents never shopped at a furniture outlet or furniture store. No, everything comes from the dump. This is the REALl meaning of Dump Furniture!
She wanted to share a warm glass of water, some food maybe. But how could I partake of any of this, she has nothing yet this is what she wanted to do.
O.K, it is now a little after 6;30 am, and I can finally get to the point.
What was it that woke me up so early today. Oh yeah, it was an uneasy feeling of not being able to do more. To be able to help and possibly not be able to experience days like that day in the dump where a woman demonstrated the truest meaning of love and kindness, uninterested in material thing yet entirely willing to give something of the nothing she had.
On that day, it was my poverty that was being tended to not hers.
There is the point indeed. The only real shelter from life’s hardships is other people kindness.
Building things is cool, educating them is important, but loving people impacts them for the rest of their life.
That’s what that day in the dump is all about. It’s about being mindful of the truly important things in life.
Original short blog posted August 2011.
What began years ago as a longing on my heart to discover a purpose for my life, has turned into what must be one of the most important times of my life. Well, at least the most interesting. However; through all of the experiences I have had, something of particular significance has happened, in one of the strangest places I know. A Dump! Not jut any dump but a dump for an urban center of over one million people.
There, on the hills surrounding the dump is a community of families. Many hundreds, at least, maybe thousands of people live off of what is harvested from the city dump.
The reason we were there was to validate a story I heard describing families living in this unimaginable location. While there, a friend of mine and I visited with families who are in need of houses.
Since Shelter The World is all about housing people in poverty, it eas only natural that our plans should be to go there and make improvements.
While there we were trying to determine what family would receive a new home. What was immediately evident was that everyone who lives in the dump is in need of a house and our ability to make a selection was going to be limited to the first families we met.
Not exactly the best way to make a choice but it became painfully clear within several minutes that we could not talk to anyone else besides our first encounters because we were not going to be able to fill the needs that everyone had.
Unfortunately, on this trip, our tools and materials got held up in customs, so we decided to walk the “streets” (there are no cars) of the dump community and take in the almost incomprehensible sights. The notion of what is considered “living” was so foreign, so oblique, so strange compared to anything I had experienced before.
What I need you to know though is this: I’ve seen poverty and destruction before. Previously, I’ve been to Haiti, in Cite Soleil; which is generally regarded as one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of the Western Hemisphere. I’ve been to Africa and the Middle East. I’ve seen poverty and destruction from disasters. I have had experiences that compared equally in poverty to these on the dump, and in some cases worse due to the nature of disasters meeting poverty.
But something very special happened on The Dump. I entered!
In every case up until the dump experience I remained outside of people’s homes, But on the dump I did something different, I entered into the homes of people whom I did not know and visited with them and talked about their lives on the dump, their families, and their work. I was invited in to see the kitchen and bedroom (if you can call them that) of people who cared about their home as much as you and I. This is their “place”…it has children and parents and memories just like we do. But this was no place any of us would call home, let alone a shed for the back yard, or use for a chicken coop, nor anything other than something to discard…something to throw in the dump.
Yet this is their home.
Deep in the recesses of thought and feeling, something new was percolating up and there in that dump, the stark reality that I “got it” beyond anything I had ever gotten before took hold.
Holy Holy Holy Lord God almighty….on holy ground, in this dump where true love and true worth were found.
I knew at once a change in my life was taking place. The kind where you recognize nothing can ever be the same. One that is impossible to deny. On that day there was a reversal of order: you see, seven years ago I looked to God for a purpose worth living for. Then, on that day on The Dump I experienced something new.
Odd for being in a place of old discarded things. What could I possibly receive on, oops, in the dump?
Then I thought; I am so blessed to have something worth working for, something worth so much trouble and cost so much. Sheltering people around the world like these living on the dump is important. It is honorable and satisfying. It is more than I could ever have imagined doing.
You see, on that day, my heart became full with a love for people living in desperate conditions around the world, and a love for this place (The Dump) and places just like it.
I am indeed a blessed man!
The Dump Reignited the Passion for the Cause to Shelter the World
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