For Freedom Sunday | September 22, 2019
Nobody picks me up and swings me around as soon as she sees me. I ask, ‘Are we dancing?’ And she laughs at my question. There is joy in her eyes and I know that she has been waiting for me to come out. I know, because she was waiting for me with her ball and her limited speech and a mind full of misfiring circuits when I went inside to take a nap. Nobody is simply waiting for the scraps of attention that somebody or anybody might toss her way — leftover pieces of affection that she can scrape from the dirt and call her own.
The truth is, I don’t want to dance with Nobody. I don’t want to hug her or sit too close to her for fear of lice and fleas. Nobody, in her 14-year-old body is host to a cocktail of crawling life that threatens the threshold of my personal bubble.
WHERE NOBODY LIVES
Nobody lives in a house, if you can call it that — a ramshackle structure that was once a house. There are no window panes. There are no doors. There are two mattresses that once belonged to frames. She dwells in this place with Brother, with Mother, and with Aunt.
I have met Aunt before — a scroungy being who sits at the gate of the school in the dark in a drunken stupor. Her voice is the broken chord of a mistrung violin — it crackles and screeches. Even in her sober moments, she is unable to string together the syllables of a coherent story. She is a hard worker by day where local farmers hire her to slop the animal pens and load the dirty refuse onto her back. They pay her in the cheapest alcohol for her labors. They use her body as a source of their release at night.
Once upon a time, in her younger days, Aunt fell in love with a village man who made her pregnant. The man did not want her. The village decided together to abort her child. This is the way of life here in the village.
Years later, with grunts and groans, Nobody was heaved into this world — an unwanted, unneeded piece of squirming life. Mother, who had been used and abused and broken by the wants and whims of a village, deposited her in the trash and carried the garbage in the rolled hem of her shirt. Perhaps it was Aunt’s own tragic loss that led her to rescue the squawking, naked, freshly-birthed baby girl from the trash can. Aunt pulled that tiny morsel from the bin and she rocked her to sleep.
Nobody fought. She demanded her spot in this universe and she continues to fight valiantly today.
I have watched Nobody for years — watched her grow in intervals from a small wisp of a child to the edge of womanhood. Heard her push past grunts into one-syllable words. Tried to imagine the moment when somebody wanted to love her simply because she was Nobody.
WHEN SOMEBODY CARES
The school in the village takes Nobody and Brother in. They welcome them daily — give them clean beds to sleep and warm food for their stomachs. They give Nobody safety for her body and warmth for her soul. It is the one place in the world where Nobody is loved.
On a scorching June in a courtyard, this slip of a girl who is teetering on womanhood bustles forward to receive a recognition award when her name is called. It is the end of another school year and every child hears their name called. They hear their name valued and appreciated, they are noted for who they are, even if their story begins as an unwanted baby in a bin.
With this weekend designated as Freedom Sunday, it seems right to voice Nobody’s story again. It seems right to say that her life has value and to recognize the depths of her courage, her resilience, and her strength in what can be a cold and dark world.
Of course, ‘Nobody’, is not her real name. I use it as a means to protect her identity. She deserves that.
And on a personal level, I have to admit that it is way too easy to relegate people with disabilities, people who have been sold and used, people who are host to squadrons of unsavory stories, to a place of nothingness in our societal structure. In essence, they become a nobody to us so that we can lead our lives in peace.
I mean to highlight that personal tendency to relegate certain people to places of inconsequence in my own life. Perhaps you have the same tendency. And, I mean to ask forgiveness for it. The sin of using people, the sin of ignoring or contributing to the brokenness of systems that use people — it all creates a prison not only for Nobody, but for you and for me too, for all of us.
On this Freedom Sunday that draws our attention to the trafficking and slavery of humans, let us be honest, let us seek reconciliation for our souls, and let us choose to live differently.
May God continue to stretch our hearts and our minds toward the Truth of what it means to be made in the image of God. And may we be willing to allow that Truth to compel us towards the mission of God.
ON FREEDOM SUNDAY
Although you may never meet N., you can make a difference in her life and in the lives of other children and women and men like her. There are a plethora of great organizations doing tremendously courageous work in the areas of anti-trafficking. I would like to highlight a few that I know personally.
Romanian ministry that provides a home, resources, and care for women who have been internationally trafficked for sexual slavery.
For children who have been the victims of online sex trafficking — an anti-cybersex ministry in the Philippines.
Establishes a web of resources in Europe and beyond for individuals and organizations working with anti-trafficking and anti-slavery.
Provides resources, aid, and development globally in multi-tier strategies to prevent trafficking and slavery and to promote healthy and helpful ministry with those who have been victimized.
Will grew up in Budapest as part of the community that we are attached to and I have the highest regard for this young man. He is fulfilling a self-funded internship with IJM.