The first time I read those words as a 9th grader I had no idea the message that God was putting in front of me. I’m not sure that I get it now, though maybe a little more.
Two events occurred while I was enlisted in the Army that began to open my eyes to the “Gold” that God had put in my life.
While on a mission in Honduras we had a day where we were assigned to do a “garbage run”. This entailed loading up our Hummers with all of our garbage and taking it to the local dump. We were warned sternly that we should stay on the trucks and out of the way. We needed to be prepared for anything and our weapons were to be loaded and ready. “For a garbage run?!?” you might ask. As we neared the site, people started coming from everywhere, young, old and almost all of them male. They were not friendly faces. They noticed our weapons and maintained a level of respect but there was no love. I noticed a small boy of probably 5-8 years of age and knew that I had an orange in my pocket. I pulled it out and tossed it to his eager, outstretched hands. An older man standing next to him attacked him, wrestling the fruit from his hands. But at this point I became concerned with other things. Our trucks were being emptied for us as close to one hundred people climbed on and began tearing bags open and fighting for all they were worth for every scrap of refuse. My finger went to the trigger and my thumb to the safety as I watched the melee in horror. I believe God caused me to glance aside again so that I could notice the child that was now crushed to the side of the truck. Such hopelessness, such desperation. Ah, but I had another orange. I took my hand off the trigger and in the press and scuffling was able to secret this meager show of generosity to his surprised face. He quickly snatched the fruit and was able to slip away. I never saw him again.
From time to time the US Military will perform joint maneuvers with the South Korean military and on one occasion my unit was asked to participate. Among other things, we did a simulation of a helicopter drop where we would fly in, land, disembark and then set up a perimeter, as the choppers left, looking to do this as quickly and flawlessly as possible. We then would march to a secondary location where we would secure a perimeter for the “birds” to come in and pick us up. On this occasion, the landing had gone fine, march was uneventful. But then, as we prepared for departure we heard a noise behind us. Someone was shouting. It was all in Korean so we couldn’t understand a word. There came an old man, dragging a frightened young boy behind him. We could not understand if this child was being offered so that we could take him to a better place or offered for lest noble purposes but that the child was being offered no one had any doubt. I was appalled at what I saw and, of course, there was not a thing that we could do one way or the other. We lifted off with the old man and his charge being buffeted by our down draft, a sense of horror in my soul.
What value do I place on the life of a child? How does God see them? I was haunted.