so I'm having this battle...on one hand, with society, and on the other,with myself. i just finished watching slumdog millionaire for the second time with my mom. each time i watch that movie, i get emotional, and if you know me, this doesn't generally happen. but it's not because the movie is great that i get emotional. the tears come when i think of those kids and the time i spent in mumbai and coming to terms with the reality that is their lives and how hopeless it is (from a natural point of view...

of course i honestly believe that with Jesus, nothing is impossible). i read recently that a couple of the kids who played the main roles in the movie were back in the slums and it really pissed me off but i wasn't at all surprised. apparently that's been changed due to an international public outcry, but only time will tell how genuine of a change that really is. the point is--well actually i've got about a hundred points to make, but here's one to start--poverty is a mindset. giving them money and a roof over their head may be a start, but it's nowhere close to addressing the underlying issue.

having spent time working with kids pulled out of a slum as well as working with kids living in the slums, it takes a far more than a few material goods to change a mindset and bring about success. i'd be interested in knowing, ten years from now, where those kids are. and not to be a pessimist, but the way things are, i doubt there's going to be a whole lot of change. when there is a whole lot of hype, everybody's wants to serve the cause and be a hero. when the hype dies out and it comes down to doing the difficult work, there's hardly a soul left standing. because real life isn't like the movies. real life is tough. and real life in the slums of india are tougher still. and real success doesn't happen overnight. real success takes blood, sweat and tears, and an investment on your part. and while many people are ready to work for their own success, not many will step up to work for another's success. and just as a sidenote, today i was watching the E! channel and found out that frieda pinto's clutch at the oscars cost some $6500.

some of the other ladies' cluthes in the hundreds of thousands. now, i'm not saying that they're bad people or anything of the sort. but having looked into the faces of children begging for their next meal, i can't help but think about how many thousands of children could have been taken care of with that amount of money. another sidenote, i babysit two wonderful kids and everytime i go over there, i can't help but think to myself that these two kids have enough toys and gadgets in their possession to furnish an orphanage of fifty. once again, i'm not saying they're bad people. but it just breaks my heart to see it. but then that brings me to my next point, even if money were donated towards this cause, (and post-slumdog, a lot of people have donated towards the slum situation), will it really help or will the money get lost in overhead costs and bureaucracy?

just today, i received a newsletter from one of the organizations i had a chance to work with. i've been looking forward to getting this newsletter for the last month or so and was so excited when the email arrived. but i went to the website to read it and was disappointed to find photos that could be three years old, if not more. they have one dated case study/success story about a girl i personally spent time with. it talks about how her life has been changed because of this organization and that she's doing wonderful and yadda yadda, when in reality, last i heard, she ran away. the pictures and stories paint this rosy picture of what doesn't exist and it brings in the dough. and i ask, where the hell is all the money going? and truth be told, it's the honest organizations that are making a real difference who don't get the largescale funding. and there are a hundred additional things i can sit here and complain about and get depressed over.

the other side of the issue is the question of whether the methods used to address the problems of poverty and homelessness are actually effective or they're just offering a temporary solution. i mean, if you saw someone bleeding profusely, would you offer them a bandaid or two and hope for the best? of course not! maybe these organizations mean well, but you have to admit that something somewhere is seriously flawed. so anyways, i was discussing these things with mom and she goes into this spiel on how things won't change and how i could have been doing so much more if i were married and how people would respect me more if i had a respectable man in my life and how i'm being rebellious and that i'll end up like my great aunt who was a lot like me and now she's old and everybody thinks she's wasted her life.

having said all of that, the other battle i'm having is with myself. i'm getting comfortable here and it scares me. i like my bed, my room, shopping, eating, and everything else. life in north america is luxury. and every day i wake up and it becomes harder and harder to think that one day i want to give it all up. i mean, do i really want to do this? but the truth is, i don't think i'll ever be truly happy living like this. and yet, do i have what it takes to tough it out when i've grown up with everything i could ever want? and let's face it, 'the best of both worlds' doesn't really exist when it comes to the stark realities of life. i honestly believe in identifying with the people whom God has called you to serve. Jesus didn't just proclaim the message from heaven, He came down to earth and became one of us.

you know what, there are a few things i've made up my mind about:

1. if people cannot respect me for the woman that God made me to be and can only respect me after i have a guy they prescribe in my life, screw it, i don't need such superficial 'respect'. i may be a woman, but God is God. He can use women, men, angels, donkeys, or even the weather to accomplish His purpose.

2. i don't want to depend on anybody or their money to do the work that God has called me to, by the grace of God, i'll work as hard as i possibly can and trust that the Lord will multiply my little to feed the multitudes. and whether i'm rich or poor, it is my aim to live a modest life. should God bless me, it will be a blessing to others.

3. i may not change the entire system in my lifetime, but each and every day that God gives me on this planet, i will do everything in my power to raise the standard as far as how christian organizations do social work. sometimes i think as christians we rely on feelgood rhetoric in place of real results, on using spirituality as a crutch to pretend that what we don't want to see doesn't exist, on 'i'll pray about it' when we should be saying 'let's do something about this'.

4. i will be who i am and i'll figure out this life on my own terms. i need to quit comparing myself to others and trying to step into someone else's shoes. i have to let myself be myself--the person God created me to be. controversial if that. radical if that. unconventional if that.

i have to start being the change i want to see.

Benita Joy