The Indian contrast between those who have made it and those who have not is measured in distances unfathomable by most of those living in the west. Billboards, television, and music all scream consumption, materialism, and success. Cars crowd the streets, the latest fashions show up on the beautiful people, and fancy coffee bars openly charge prices for a single cup of espresso that exceed what many people earn in a day. For those who are unemployed, struggling to find shelter, and love their families the pain of living without is something that I cannot even begin to comprehend.
In this context is there anyone who could condemn a lie that helps a person or family survive or even get ahead, if only a little? When I hear the proverb that “It’s only human to want to make a buck, but it’s better to be poor than a liar” (Proverbs 19.23) I wonder if the writer ever saw India.
What do I say to the girl on the beaches of Madras who spoke perfect English, was articulate and caring, and yet faced a future with odds that defy calculation? How do I respond when the boy of six taps on the window of the car seeking a bit of money in order to survive, if only from the thrashing that will come from the pimp controlling his shelter and meager portions of food. Should I argue with the airport “help” who provides a cart and leads me through a line in a way that minimizes the time in a queue?
I have no answers, just experiences that do not go far enough. I talked to the girl on the beach and treated her as a person. I looked at the boy, apologizing for my desperation in not knowing what to do. I paid a bit extra for the volunteer who helped me with my luggage.
God responds in ways more complete. God knows our failures; Her response is grace, love, and mercy. God teaches us through action that everyone is His child. We are God’s people.