In the midst of their calamity, they managed to smile. There was an unexplainable calm and peace upon their faces as they fell patiently in line, awaiting their turn to receive water, rice and canned goods. There was no noise, no panic, nor distress.
They had little to start with, and the little they had, they lost. They lived in palm-roofed huts that were blown away, and now they huddle under tents of tarpaulin held up by wooden planks. When the rains revisit at night, the fathers and mothers sit in the rain, while their little ones sleep under the sparse canopies. Help has been slow to arrive. Meek as sheep, they do not grumble. They wait.
A woman who stepped on a nail while braving the typhoon, walked many miles under scorching heat to where relief goods were distributed. Her foot throbbed with pain as she approached my daughter and me, and she held out her parasol to shield us from the sun. Other women joined us and offered their parasols as well. They told us they had little to eat, and when the relief supplies run out, they will share what remains with each other. Their sun-parched, emaciated faces somehow reflected an inner joy.
At that moment, I recognized the palpable wealth of the poor: they who possess little do not own the onerous burden of the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in” 1. I felt the light-hearted freedom in their hearts, the natural sensitivity to gravitate towards gratitude, as the flowers of the field blossom, facing the sun.
As the nail that pierced the woman with the parasol, so has her countenance, along with the many other tranquil faces around her, wounded and scarred my heart forever, that noonday under the sun.
“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him?” James 2:5 ESV
D. G. Vachal © 2013
1 Mark 4:19
*** Photography courtesy of Amy Lynn Vachal