Every year on my birthday I give myself a birthday gift and this since I was turning 21 I wanted to do something special..
When I was young and living in Myanmar, my parents arranged for me to go visit the old folks home every year on my birthday and donate food and money to them. I would rise before the sun, dress in my new clothes and head of to the home. There we would go from person to person, bed to bed and personally give them a food hamper and sit by them as the shower me with blessings. The home was cramped, unhygienic and smelt impending death, but I would rather be nowhere else.
It has been years since I have done something like that, so this year, as I am crossing the threshold of adulthood, I wanted do something charitable and donate food.
So we ordered the hampers and while collecting them I was having the same feeling you’d get when you’re unwrapping a gift; excited, expectant and just happy overall.
But all of that disappeared when we reached the shelter.
When I reached the shelter, I saw that I was privileged. It’s one thing to know it but another to actually see it. It was heartbreaking to see that for some eating is not a habit but a privilege. Can you imagine what a life it is to not even know when you will get to eat next?
At that moment I had a mixed feeling of shame and gratefulness. I felt shameful for all the times I have been ungrateful and spoiled. Moreover, I felt shameful to live in a world where even our charity is advised to be prioritized by race, religion and individual habits. It dawned on me that poverty does not exist due to the lack of resources to eradicate it, it exist because we have forgotten that all faiths say that we should help the poor not a certain type of poor. Yet I was grateful for having more than enough that I was able to give back to those in need.
We don’t get to choose whose life is more important, who needs more help or who even deserves help. Just as poverty doesn’t choose who is wants to grip. We should only be choosing how much we would like to donate.
The artwork is by the young artist Sudheeshna Bijjala, winner of the Sovereign Art Charity Students Prize Singapore 2017, called Skin, Flesh and Bones.
I found it to be very apt for this post as poverty strips you of all your individuality and materials and leaves you with just your skin , flesh and bones at the mercy of others to survive.