We do not live for ourselves only
I recently heard a beautiful story from a young Iranian man, forced to flee Iran, and now an asylum seeker, living day to day, an uncertain future in Australia. His own story is deeply sad and disturbing, but this is the story he tells:
The southern part of Iran is a place which has great poverty and also struggles to find teachers willing to teach at the schools there. While he was a university student Hamid decided that he would go south as often as he could and help out, teaching the children in one of the schools. He soon became aware that the children were hungry. And as is the case when children are hungry they could not concentrate or learn. So Hamid drew on his contacts and managed to organise food for the children in this particular school, each child being given a bowl of rice and two kebabs. The first day the children were given the rice and kebabs he noticed a commotion in the playground and saw teachers shouting at a little boy. When he walked over to see what was happening he found one of the boys had eaten only one of his kebabs and put the other into his pocket. The teacher was adamant that he should eat it at once and the little boy was just as adamantly refusing to take it out of his pocket. Hamid spoke to the boy who told him that his little sister at home had never had a kebab before and he was taking it home for her. There was no way he was going to relinquish the treasure in his pocket!
In its beauty I found this a deeply moving story and a story of profound wisdom. Today this little boy is our teacher! He knew physical hunger and I am sure in that situation of poverty and need that hunger would have been great. But he was also able to look beyond his personal hunger and see himself in relationship. This good thing, this kebab, was not just for him alone! He remembered the hunger of his little sister. One hungry child remembering the hunger of another. And that drove him to put the kebab in his pocket to take it home to her and to stand up to those who got angry with him and told him to eat it and not to take it away with him. We can just imagine his excitement as he raced home at the end of the day with the kebab in his pocket, perhaps rather dried out and squishy by then, and in a gesture of love and triumph gave it to her. Love indeed! The poor can truly be our teachers. And if we take seriously the declaration of John in his Second Letter that “God is love and everyone who lives in love lives in God and God lives in them”, then this little boy surely shows us something of the face of God. His story reminds us of something at the heart of our Christian Tradition – we do not live for ourselves only.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator