I was only away for a week, but I came back to a very different Australia to the one I left.
Before I left, concerns were growing rapidly over COVID-19. Even at that stage a lot of travellers were cancelling their plans. There was nervousness in the community.
People were starting to stock up on what they considered to be essential items.
In the days before I flew out, hand sanitiser was nowhere to be found and there were empty spaces in shops and pharmacies where there used to be face masks.
I left Australia bound for the Philippines on the 3rd of March to see Compassion’s work in action. Within a couple of days, people back home seemed to be ratcheting up the panic.
Social media kept me up to date with life in my home country … and it wasn’t pretty.
To be fair, COVID-19 is a pretty big deal and will continue to be for quite some time. There’s a very real need for concern and more than that, for action. I can’t blame people for protecting themselves and those they love.
The difficulty for me was sitting with beautiful, courageous families who are living in makeshift shelters, with no electricity, running water or toilets, and then seeing videos in my Facebook feed of people in Australian supermarkets fighting over toilet rolls.
COVID-19 is stripping away our choices. It is tearing at our security. It is bringing unquestionable pain in the form of job losses, failing businesses, loss of connection and so much more.
When life eventually returns to normal, it will be a radically different kind of normal.
For many, there won’t be the opportunity to pick up where we left off. Unemployment is likely to be the long-term reality for many who previously had secure jobs. Many businesses will be unable to weather this storm and simply won’t be around when the virus has been defeated.
On top of all that comes the anxiety and the disconnection that comes with our isolation. Video catch ups don’t give hugs.
Many of us are likely to either be infected with the virus or be close to people who will suffer from COVID-19. Even worse, some of us will lose loved ones to this horrible virus.
In the midst of all of this, my heart is breaking for the children Compassion serves. Together with their families they are facing even greater risks.
In a time when we’re all feeling vulnerable, I really hope you’ll spare a thought, a prayer, and maybe even a gift for these children. They are the most vulnerable of all.
Past President of Compassion International, Wess Stafford spoke about the vulnerability of children in his book, Too Small to Ignore. While we are hearing that this virus is most deadly for the elderly, I think the paragraphs here still carry a lot of weight.
No matter what the setting, children seem to be a second-rate mandate. No matter what the ill of society, it tends to spiral downward and eventually land with its cruelest and most smothering impact on our littlest citizens.
Small, weak, helpless, innocent, vulnerable, and trusting, they are the waiting victims for our simple neglect and most evil abuse.
No matter what goes wrong, the little ones pay the greatest price.
When hunger and famine strike a nation, adults become weak and hungry, but it is the children who most often starve to death. When disease arrives with all its fury, adults can become very sick, but the first to die are usually the children.
When war erupts over ethnicity or boundary lines in the dust, it is the littlest victims who pay the most tragic price. The wars of the last decade killed more children than soldiers.
Far more children were injured or permanently maimed by our battles. The tragedies go on for years after the last gunshot or grenade blast, as land mines and booby-trapped toys keep wounding, terrorizing, and killing our innocent ones.
The ritual sacrifice of children has been taboo for thousands of years. Yet tragically it is practiced every day across our world.
We sacrifice children on the altars of our most destructive sins. When the sickness of pornography has run to its most evil and destructive end, it takes the form of child pornography.
When prostitution reaches its sickest, most depraved form, it becomes child prostitution. Perhaps a little closer to home is the reality that children are the sacrificial lambs when our homes break up through neglect, anger, hostility, and eventually divorce.
Kids frequently blame themselves for the destruction, carrying deep scars on their innocent spirits for a lifetime.
The last thing I would want to do is minimise the situation we all find ourselves in right now. We’re here through no fault of our own and we are not in control. That’s scary … and it’s pretty much how a lot of those in extreme poverty live their entire lives.
I would simply ask that as we face this unprecedented interruption to our lives, we consider those most vulnerable in our world. Children living in extreme poverty.
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