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J Walking

Focusing on the details

posted by David Kuo

This post is the body of an email I sent to my friends from the Uganda trip.
One of the things that struck me about the trip was that “macro” poverty – what we could see from the street, for instance – wasn’t nearly as bad as “micro” poverty – the glimpse inside someone’s home, the children playing with piles of burning trash. The more you dug the worse poverty looked and smelled and felt. The details are what matter.
I think that is what I’m struggling with in my own life – the details. I don’t feel guilty for my life. I don’t feel guilty about my comfort. I don’t understand the massive inequality between what I have and what others don’t. I don’t understand their suffering and my relative lack of suffering. I don’t understand how to pray given what I saw – especially in that cancer hospital. But I don’t feel guilty. Neither do I feel like I am supposed to pack up and move to Uganda. I desperately want to go back but I don’t sense I am supposed to move there.
But it is the details of how I spend my time – and, to a lesser degree money – that are getting to me. I feel like so many of the details of my life are frivolous. Reading an article or spending any mental energy on spectator sports seems absurd. Frittering away hours surfing the web seems like an affront to the time God has given me. Spending a nanosecond on the things of the entertainment world seems just pathetic. It isn’t that I am supposed to deny myself pleasure or enjoyment but the details of my life need to change. Asceticism isn’t the answer. But if poverty is ugliest up close, a “changed life” means the details of my life need to be radically different.
I need to spend more time volunteering to address the pain in my own city – there is plenty of it. It is very different in degree from what we saw in Kampala, but it is real. I need to spend time and energy addressing the needs I saw in Uganda – recruiting other people to Compassion, writing to raise awareness, using my contacts to try and help that hospital, giving much more money away, giving things away… the details… the details have to change. I think if I focus on these then perhaps I won’t fall into that seductive trap Bono talked about after he was in Ethiopia during the famine: “…you just get on with your life, and you slowly find a place to put Africa, this beautiful, shining continent with all its ups and downs. Occasionally, you’d take it out, you’d look at it again, and then you’d put it back in that safer place called distance and time.”
So please, please hold me to a change in details.

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Linda Sue

posted February 28, 2008 at 9:54 am

David -isn’t it odd that so many varied groups are quoting Bono? It is hard to reconcile rock star and social justice advocate – but it seems to be his mantle. Glad you are focusing – you certainly have some great people in your life to push you through this. I truly believe Christ when He said even a cup of cold water offered in His name is noticed – so now we need to get some clean wells dug and that pump primed.

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Marcia Erickson

posted February 28, 2008 at 10:02 am

Isn’t it amazing how you didn’t change Uganda in a week but Uganda changed you in a week.
Press on David!
with love,

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Psalm 51, me too.

posted February 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm

“So please, please hold me to a change in details.” David Kuo.
To do that, would be to violate the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct. A person would have to hold to and proclaim the Gospel and the mission and witness of the Apsoltes. It is very hard to present that, and get through the computer programs/filters at Beliefnet.com to prevent scriptural truths to weigh on decisions that have to be made to live the way Christ taught. You’re doing fairly well outside of the box David. Go there often. Jesus and His Apostled did. They’ve already taught you all you need to know. Keep implementing it.

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c kitty

posted February 28, 2008 at 6:37 pm

It sounds like you are “putting away childish things” and that you have fallen in love with Africa — it has that kind of effect on people.

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posted February 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

I am a regular reader, but seldom comment.
Here, you sound like you are going through what some people go through after a near-death experience:
“But it is the details of how I spend my time – and, to a lesser degree money – that are getting to me. I feel like so many of the details of my life are frivolous. Reading an article or spending any mental energy on spectator sports seems absurd. Frittering away hours surfing the web seems like an affront to the time God has given me. Spending a nanosecond on the things of the entertainment world seems just pathetic…”
Don’t know if that is interesting to you, but it was to me. I was in a car accident a year and a half ago that I should have died in, instead I walked (well, climbed) out without a scratch on me.

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someone who hasn't sacrificed in a long time

posted February 29, 2008 at 1:54 am

I too am touched by this post. I want TO DO SOMETHING. But what should I do? You list a few things. But I want to do something right now. It’s 10:54 PM in California, and I just got done spending an hour watching American Idol. But I didn’t help anybody.
Where should I give my money or my possessions?
Who do I write to?
Can I build a website (which is what I do for a living) that would help them?
I’d love more ideas.

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posted February 29, 2008 at 8:39 am

Become a role model for men not to be promiscuous and callous and to commit their lives to their “wife” and raise their children to be moral and pure. That will end much suffering for children.
Our world is cursed because of what men do.
Here is a promise that we will see someday:
“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
If men were to commit their life to their children and their wife, so much of the suffering we see in EVERY culture and place on earth, would be so greatly dimished, that the only tears shed for the loss of loved ones, would be from accidents, only a few diseases and old age.
God has set before us all, the choice of life and death. Too many men choose the latter, while the women of this planet (and the children of a man and a woman), suffer because of it.
There is a real solution to end the vast majority of real suffering. But it takes a real man to follow the example of the real women of this planet. The journey can only end in success with a step in the right direction.
(Posted by: Donny | February 28, 2008 9:35 AM on another thread)

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posted February 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

David,let us pray that God will open door for relief fund to reach those who need it, and not the evil leaders,and their european co-hearts. It is mind bogging to think about all the rich resources in Africa,that is in the hand of a greedy few. If some of the rich resorces could be used to create jobs,that would be a blessing. The gospel and the rich resources could really change Africa.

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c kitty

posted February 29, 2008 at 6:52 pm

To Someone…
If you want to do something right now, go to the Compassion International web site and pick a child to sponsor. It is amazing how quickly it becomes personal. I have a photo propped up in front of me right now of my new kid. They have lots of suggestions if you want to do more. I checked them and it is a very reputable organization.
I also saw a story of man who invented a simple hand cranked gizmo to help a village where they made their living shelling nuts, which they had been doing all by hand. Amazing what a difference a little imagination applied to a situation can do. Maybe there is a way to implement some of these basic simple solutions by way of a web site. just a thought.

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posted March 1, 2008 at 8:35 am

Hmm, I disagree on sponsoring a child. If you want to, fine. But that’s not going to change the world. At worst, it may help you keep yourself at a distance and avoid really changing yourself. And it will likely fatten the wallets of some corrupt middle-men before a percentage trickles down to the kids at the bottom of the pool.
I think seeing (your new awareness) is a huge deal. Now that you’ve seen how “the rest” are living, maybe you’re open to change in yourself. Keep your eyes open, and you will change (as a gift of God’s grace who wants you to love as He loves). Then, instead of doing what you “need to do” or “should do” you’ll simply do what you want to do — which will probably come out as concrete acts of love — and that (however small it begins) will be a genuine change.
May God bless you on the journey.

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posted March 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm

We should be aware of the billion of dollars in resources in Africa that could be used to rebuild Africa. Much of the relief money is kept by greedy leaders. Pray for the move of God in this land.

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c kitty

posted March 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm

If we all thought we had to “change the world” very little would ever happen because none of us have the power to do that. We can only change small pieces of it, and it takes a lot of us to accomplish something big. So you think child sponsorship is a fraud — based on what? And please tell us what you are doing that we might learn. Bear in mind that not everyone is able to travel personally to Africa.

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Albert the Abstainer

posted March 2, 2008 at 8:59 am

You have spoken about a fast from politics in the past. Now is time for a different fast. This is a fast from the compulsive inertia of consumerism and trivial distraction. We are robbed of our lives by velvet shackles, and the goading of inconsequential things, in a dulled mind, body and spirit.
You know, it is not something anyone needs to speak to you. It is not an act of penitence for guilt, but an act of redemption from that lethargic state of being a consumer-zombie. And I fall into this trap as well, but life speaks itself with vitality when I sweep away the inconsequential and embrace the struggle in all its facets. Being awakened from sleep is often disturbing. The question is, do I go back to sleep or get up and get on with the business of living? It is a question that confronts me every day and every moment.

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Albert the Abstainer

posted March 2, 2008 at 9:10 am

David, some Simone Weil quotes for you:
The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle.
Those who love a cause are those who love the life which has to be led in order to serve it.
All sins are attempts to fill voids.

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a seeker

posted March 3, 2008 at 8:04 pm

wow-this has made me think-the article-the comments-
like many people, i’ve given money to charities-of all sorts-and done some volunteering-
the suffering of others does often make me feel guilty-and sad-
i know i should always remember that i am blessed-
i believe that we all should be less self-involved, more motivated to help others-expand our vision-
thank-you for reminding me-

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