There is a reason I am the way I am, a reason for where my priorities lie. I will be the first to admit that I act impulsive, entitled and outrageously selfish more times than I can keep track of in a 24 hour period. I will never claim to be selfless or to truly understand sacrificial love the way we are commanded to. I will never claim that I am doing anything more that what God tells each of us to do, I am loving my neighbor. My neighbor who happens to be a beautiful brown baby, a child of God in need.
Once upon a time I could put the value of a human life on the same level as a favorite pet or television show or comfort food. Once upon a time I had the luxury of never having seen a child so starved that his bones practically pierced through his tissue paper skin. Once upon a time I had never seen a mother hand her daughter to a stranger in order to preserve her life. In a life before this one, it didn’t cross my mind that for every breath that entered and left me each day, another child became an orphan to a ruthless disease called AIDS. I used to fall asleep each night with no idea that 16,000 children had died that day because they didn’t have anything to eat, even if I had known it wouldn’t have meant much.
Because I hadn’t held them, I hadn’t sat up with them at night watching their chest rise and fall, begging God for that next breath to come, I hadn’t bathed their lifeless bodies and placed them into a coffin or cardboard box or old suitcase to be buried in a cemetery where no one would visit.
I didn’t know their names or their stories. I didn’t know the feeling in the pit of my stomach that would overtake me the first time a child smiled and I knew, this one would not die, he would live. I didn’t know the absolute miracle of watching him run and play and splash in a blow up wading pool. I didn’t know what it was like to feed her the first bits of food she had eaten in days and watch her eyes light up.
These images, burned into my mind forever are the reasons that I am changed. They are why I am barely a memory of the person I used to be. Because once upon a time I didn’t know but now I do. My eyes have been opened by the commandment of my Savior, to love my neighbor, more than my family, more than my home, more than my dog and more than myself.