On Friday night, we went to The Compassion Experience.
The website didn't provide a lot of information, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it claimed that the event would allow us to experience life in a third-world country.
I was intrigued and thought it would be a good opportunity for the kids.
It turned out to involve a lot more soliciting money through their sponsorship program than I had anticipated,
but it was still really eye-opening and I'm glad we went!
We entered a small, tent-like structure and were each given an iPod touch and directed to go up some stairs to the first room and press play. From there, we went through a series of rooms and listened to a recording from a real person named Kiki from the Philippines. The recording was really well done with background sounds to bring things to life. It told her story, from her devastating beginning, through her childhood with an alcoholic father and desperate mother, to her involvement with the Compassion program, to her adult life including college and physical therapy school. Each room depicted a different area of her life, like the hospital where she was born, her home, the marketplace, and her school.
There were two different "experiences" available in the structure, and the boys really wanted to see the other one as well. The workers kindly let us go through again, this time to experience the life of a boy named Jey, who lived in one of the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
(Amazingly, my sister was actually IN Nairobi for work on Friday!)
His childhood was completely heartbreaking. His mother sold "moonshine," which was filthy water mixed with chemicals such as battery acid to give it a "kick" in order to scratch out a tiny amount of money. The name of the drink means "kill me quickly," because it often did just that.
When the police caught his mother, he turned to a life of theft to survive and was imprisoned when he was just 9 years old. He shared a prison cell with many other children.
Eventually, he was able to get out of jail and became involved with the Compassion program.
He went on to become a musician who was well-known throughout the country.
The boys were sobered by the stories.
It is challenging for me to know what to do with knowledge.
In some ways, I feel knowledge is useless if it does not drive one to act in constructive ways.
I struggle to come back to my own comfortable, happy life when I know that so many in the world are suffering beyond my level of comprehension.
I become more anxious about using resources to do fun and unnecessary things and I critically evaluate my decisions more, which leads to a lot of hard questions.
But awareness does open doors and helps us as we seek opportunities to act.
It is my prayer that I will know how I can best use my life to bless others.