Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 19, 2009

Living with Awareness

   One of the most important things I have learned from my travels around the world is to live with awareness. Awareness is the best antidote to the anesthetizing comforts of life in the suburbs. Awareness is what keeps my tendency to be selfish at bay and leads me to reorder my priorities to reflect global realities. Awareness is what bridges the gap between how I spend my days and how the least fortunate in forgotten places spend theirs. Awareness is what keeps me from shaking my head and thoughtlessly dismissing the suffering of others. Awareness will not let me look away, walk away, or turn away — at least not easily or without a fight.

   As I prepare for Christmas, awareness has transported me back to some of the places I have visited this past year and forced me to look again at faces I have seen. One face in particular is that of a man who died at the hands of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The only record of his existence is a black and white photograph taken on December 10, 1978. His photograph is on display at Security Office 21, located in the heart of Phnom Penh. Originally a school, the Khmer Rouge turned this campus into a place of torture. The date on the photograph reminds me that every day of the year, some unfortunate human being is suffering in some place on the planet. The man in the photograph on display at S-21 reminds me that I must live each day with greater awareness of atrocities that are happening in our world.

   Awareness also whispers in my ear at night. It speaks to me in the voice of a woman I met in Uganda who cares for young girls rescued from the unspeakable horrors and indignity of a life of forced prostitution. Awareness speaks to me in the voice of a man I met in India who choked back tears and could not speak about the violent deaths of young girls trafficked to work in filthy brothels. Awareness will not let me forget that for many in our world, December 25 will be no different than any other day of the year. They will not know its Christmas. And, very little of the 450 billion we will spend on Christmas this year will reach them. Christmas will be just another day of suffering, despair, danger, and death for these unfortunate individuals.

   Jesus came to make a difference — to rescue us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to His kingdom of light (Col. 1:13). As Christ-followers we must join Him in making a difference in our world. But we cannot hope to make a difference if we are unaware of the needs and the plight of others. Please join me in living with awareness and in allowing awareness to lead us to compassionate action on behalf of the least of these and the oppressed. This Christmas, let’s replace consumption with compassion and “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9).

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