Compassion: The Shirt


I have known no other shirt.  From my earliest memory this is all that has covered my back.  The stripes of dulled blue and red my only protection from the hot noon-day sun or the cool evenings after the sun has kissed the horizon and darkness settles like a blanket over my village. 

I don’t recall it ever being clean or free from its thread-bare existence. The hole in the front has been there since the first moment that I pushed my head through the neck.  The arms hang loose and too big for my small frame, I can’t even roll up the sleeves because the material bulks and makes it hard to move.  

I didn’t really have a choice in which shirt I would get.  The pickings are slim when you have to wear poverty on your back in tattered reds and blues, when you take what you are given even though its too big or not quite big enough.  You don’t complain, you don’t even look as if you are unsatisfied.  At least you have a shirt. 

This badge of poverty that I have been forced to wear because my place of birth is not something I would’ve chosen for myself.  If I could, I would choose a shirt and shoes and pants that fit me just right.  I would choose that I would never know the rumblings and doubled-over pain of hunger.  I would choose fresh and clean water that flowed freely and abundantly so I would never know thirst.  I would choose meaningful work for my mother and father so that each day wouldn’t be full of eking normal out of nothing.  

If I had the choice I would choose different. 

But this shirt, the one that I wear backwards and tattered and thread bare?  It helps me dream of the day when I can grow into it.  Fill out the chest with muscle and the sleeves with arms that are long and lean and strong.  It is a reminder that I if I don’t have a choice, I most certainly do have chance. 

I have a chance because there is this family who lives so far a way from me and yet they love me.  They have never held me or wiped up my tears when I was scared, yet they love me.  They send me letters and pictures  and they let me know that I am precious and wanted. And, every night before I lay my head down to sleep, I wrap their pictures and letters all precious and content in my tattered shirt.  

Because of them I will one day have a chance.  
And I whisper here that if you are reading about me and my red and blue shirt then you too can help another little boy or little girl know that they have a chance. You can send love and precious to someone else with a tattered shirt, or pants held up with a rope or shoes that pinch because they are too small.  You have what it takes to help more children realize that they have a chance at life. 

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