Mother Dead

January 6, 2012
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It was a crisp fall day in California. The house in the corner of the corner of town was quiet and serene. The cars were in the driveway and the nice refreshing breeze swirled the multicolored leaves on the front lawn. The tall trees loomed large in the backyard and the bushes in the garden rustled with the sound of the wind. The surrounding houses were equally as peaceful, with trees and gravel driveways. It was idyll and privileged, like the perfect childhood memory.


Thousands of miles away…


The bright lights of one of the largest cities in the world shone brightly still at one o’ clock in the morning. Shoppers, businessmen, and people just hanging out walked the streets of Shanghai, China. It was one o’ clock, but the city was still very much alive and the honking of cars was louder than the din of millions of conversations. Neon and florescent lights bathed the entire city in a glow that was definitely NOT natural. Brightest of all the buildings in the area was the Marriot Executive Apartments. On the 38th floor, so far off from our little house on Sapphire court, my family and I slept quietly and soundly.


Twelve hours later…


“Pass the sunscreen, Gabe”

I reached over to grab the sunscreen from my frowning little brother. My mom, Gabe and I were getting ready to go out to lunch at our favorite nearby restaurant, Ajisen Ramen. It was around the corner and on the next block, and we could see it from our window. As we walked over to the restaurant merely ten minutes away, I saw no less than ten beggars in the street. I struggled not to make eye contact with those eyes full of sadness and longing. At the time, I thought of them merely as people who had a chance but did not take advantage of it or did not work hard, sort of like the way my mom always warned would happen to me one day. I now realize that most, if not all, were born into poverty and had virtually no way out. Once we arrived, it was a long wait. A smiling waitress led us to our seats and took our orders. I had noodles, my brother had pork, and my mom had a salad. This was one of my favorite eateries in Shanghai and it was only ten minutes from the comfort and safety of our home. When we were about two blocks away from the hotel, I heard Gabe’s voice behind me.
“Mom, what’s that guy doing?”

I turned and glanced back, but turned around again immediately. I saw the image for only a split second, but the image has stayed with me all these years. A young man, no more than 20 years old, was kneeling on the ground and bowing repeatedly as if worshipping the throngs of passerby. Next to him lay a bundle of blankets that I recognized distinctly as a human body. A sign lay next to him, written on cardboard in broken English.

Mother dead. No moneys. Want to dig.
I squeezed my eyes shut and walked straight ahead. The image was crystal clear in my mind, the son in his raggedy clothes, the hair sticking out of the blanket, and the empty Dixie cup with a few measly coins. The words hit me like a hurricane of realization. People around the world were dying and I couldn’t do anything about it. Neither could they. Their own family who would give everything they owned to have them back had to beg in the street just to come up with the money to bury them.
The biggest realization was that it was happening only a few hundred feet from the comfort of my privileged life. This happened right under our noses and yet we didn’t lift a finger to help. To this day, I never forgot that moment. It makes me think twice about my life and the privileges I have. I have a family that cares, more than I need, and I am safe each day. I find myself thinking of this and why many people don’t have what I take for granted. It seems so unfair, but when I think about it, I still know that, deep down, I wouldn’t give up even a quarter of what I have and give it to help those people.
Sometimes I lay awake with guilt, but one day, I hope to fix this, whether it is by donating to a foundation or by going on a missions trip with my church. My eyes and heart are a little more open to the bigger world. Nearly everybody in this town has been born into affluence, or at least a chance and they do not know what true hopelessness is. I am not saying that I am an expert on the subject, However that one day, so far away from here and yet so close, changed my view forever.

Mother dead. No moneys. Want to dig.





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