|Drs. Kaaren and Jeph Mathias, with their children, Shar, Shanti, Rohan and Jalori|
|Dr. Kaaren Mathias|
THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
I think of a group of children I played with by a river ten years ago. They were leaping, splashing, flipping, jubilant, trying new tricks and scheming gleefully to dive bomb me. We were on the edge of a swathe of rainforest in the Amazon basin, just inside the Bolivian border. There were logging trucks plying across the ferry 2km downstream and there was no school, few resources and a deeply uncertain future as their families, land and homes teetered on the edge of vulnerability. Meek and powerless, yet the river was entirely for their joy and delight. They asked no questions about if they were allowed to swim there, when they had to get out or if they could float on downstream. The earth was all theirs.
I think of a friend of mine, Tej Ram who lives in a remote village in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. We met as he accompanied his brother who was thin as a skeleton at 27 years, riddled with TB and carrying little hope of surviving. Tej Ram meekly served and supported his sick brother. Then he asked if he could help us as we ran busily around with clinic patients, our own children and training nutrition promoters. He turned out to be an excellent carpenter, cleaner, cook and driver. Tej Ram belongs to a group classified as Dalit – the lowest caste in India’s highly stratified society. In our clinic and home we had to plead with him to sit and eat with us, and even then he kept his eyes averted. But when we trekked together back to his village he stood tall and strode along the high ridge, expansively indicating the forests, fields and deep valleys: “This is our place.”
I think of a neighbour I often sat with when we lived in a crowded, grimy corner of Delhi. Mariam lives alone. She is a widow. For a living she sells chewing tobacco, a few sweets and tiny packets of salty snacks. Her story of betrayal by relatives who took over her tiny flat when her husband died, her tale of setting up house on the pavement with planks and plastics and her meek existence now on alms and scant sales seems very far from inheriting the earth. Amazingly though, she is thankful for each day, she is quick to share a hot chai cooked over her charcoal burner and she tells proudly how many different people in the neighbourhood share their evening dhal and roti with her. So OK, it’s not inheriting the earth but sitting with Mariam I realise she is more joyful and grateful, more free from rancour and more able to embrace each new morning than many of my neighbours in New Zealand.
If I am honest there are also many, many examples of meek, vulnerable, excluded, poor, disabled, marginalised people I know who aren’t anywhere near inheriting the earth – so maybe that’s where becoming part of the answer to my prayers comes in – looking for places to build justice and bring God’s kingdom on earth….
Kaaren Mathias is a mother and community health doctor living and working in North India.
Do read yesterday’s post on the same theme by Luke Tarassenko.
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences and observations? Tell us your story.