Learning to See

I picked my way carefully through the crowded street in Beirut being careful not to step into the dark liquid pooling in the cracks and low spots in the road. My senses were assaulted with the smells and sights of a developing country recovering from years of bloodshed and revolution. I was in a slum, a place the world had forgotten, overflowing with desperate people trying to make a living. School age children were everywhere, as no schools existed to keep them occupied. Most of them were trying to sell gum, flowers or bracelets and zeroed in on me, the only foreigner in sight. I hadn’t planned on walking through here, but the cab driver dropped me at the wrong place so Google maps became my guide. 

Sweat dripped from my nose and the shimmering heat caused me to squint my eyes against the reflection of the sun from the dust colored buildings. I nearly fell over a small child squatting on the side of the road selling flowers in an effort to earn a few pennies for food.  Dodging the small girl, I bumped into a young boy carrying what looked like a shoeshine box. The boy immediately offered to shine my shoes and I reflexively shook my head and quickly stepped off the sidewalk into the street.

Only a few seconds past when I felt a tug on my shirt and quickly turning, saw it was the same small boy with the shoeshine box. His clothes were filthy from being worn for weeks at a time, his face dirty with streaks where rivers of tears cut through the grim. His eyes looked unnaturally large in his gaunt face and gazed piercingly into mine. With a voice husky from crying he begged me for money for something to eat. Remembering how I had ignored him just a minute ago, my heart broke and my hand went deep into my front pocket where I had some coins.  With a hopeful look in his eyes, the small boy held out his trembling, street stained hand, exhausted from wandering up and down the hot street. As the coins fell from my hand into his, my heart broke and quickly moving away, my tears began to flow.

Having become used to seeing syndicates who use children in other countries I had learned to ignore them. I didn’t really know the full truth of this little boy, but seeing the desperation and hunger in his eyes it didn’t matter anymore. Right there on a hot, crowded Beirut street corner, I cried out to the Lord and repented of my callous heart and asked the Lord to give me the sensitivity to see needs as Jesus does.