Six feet long. Four feet wide. Maybe five feet tall. A blue concrete box with one barred window. Roof made of plastic sheets held in place by heavy sticks, rocks and unidentifiable pieces of junk.
We sat on the floor of Kiran’s house and asked her questions. Then the eleven year-old girl asked us one.
She stood up straight and through a proud smile she asked, “How do you like my home?”
I held back tears. So did the others. “It’s beautiful,” we said.
She went with us for a walk through her neighborhood – past open sewers, across the bridge that spanned polluted waters, past the sex slaves and their Johns and their stares.
Somewhere along the way Kiran began to cry. She cried, she said, because she was very happy.
What could possibly move a girl living in twenty-four square feet to tears of joy? What could bring a smile in such a wretched place?
“I have God,” she said. And then she sang. She held hands and sang and practically floated like a firefly through the darkness. “Lord I lift your name on high…Lord I love to sing your praises…”
I sat on the floor of the shower wailing one morning last week. Maybe it was Tuesday. The last few weeks all run together now.
Hopelessness. Despair. Insignificance. Deep inexplicable sadness. It filled me up until it groaned out of me uncontrollably. “Where are you God?” I shouted at the floor. “Where did you go? Why are you leaving me here? Why? Save me!”
The darkness didn’t lift but it thinned, quieted for a moment, and for the first time in days I had a thought that didn’t sound like my own. It wasn’t doubt, fatigue, hopelessness, or fear. “Now it’s just you and me.”
I think it was God.
I thought about Kiran and about all the people of the third world I’ve met over the last several years. The little girl in Ethiopia who gave me flowers. The grandmother in El Salvador who offered to kill her only chicken to feed me. I thought about the things I’ve prayed for when I’ve left them. I’ve envied their joy and begged God for it. I’ve coveted their dependence on him and wished I could have it. I never imagined the cost or cause of their contentment and communion with God.
“Now it’s just you and me,” God thought inside me.
“So this is what it’s like,” I thought back. And then the darkness covered me up again and I sobbed until my muscles hurt from it and the water ran cold.