"THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD...."
For centuries, the lack of money has challenged most Chinese, limiting their lives to endless struggles. I’ve traveled China’s back roads, alleys, into remote villages and know that, for centuries, little has changed. Primitive lifestyles appear frozen-in-time and there’s no promise of a better future. Only those Americans who lived during the great depression could, conceivably, identify with the meaning of the word “poor” as it relates to China’s poor.
That explains why many poor country people travel to large cities like Beijing, hoping to find work, believing they will somehow improve their lives. Sadly, the rural workers are untrained, unskilled, and too-soon have no choice but live on the streets.
It doesn’t take long before sickness, starvation, outside elements, or the ever-alert military police, forces these pitiful souls back to the countryside, back to the poverty they’ve always known. The few who remain become street beggars.
China’s large numbers of street beggars survive in underpasses, in ditches, even in the city’s many dumping sites. Some of the beggars are severely disabled and many are young children. Chinese Tour Guides discourage tourists from donating money to street beggars, insisting that the government provides for them. But, in fact, that is a lie.
As a self-appointed spokesperson for China’s street people, I spent months with government leaders discussing solutions to the tragic lifestyle of street beggars. Over and over I heard “China has no money; beggars have money and should take responsibility for themselves.” I argued that many of the disfigured children didn’t have families and were forced to beg—to survive. Most of the children, some merely babies, had been abandoned…left alone on the streets… because of their multiple deformities.
Uncomfortable with my directness and my facts, China’s leaders politely, but firmly, disregarded all my suggestions. Their final answer: “Today’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems.”
Just like leaders in America, China’s leaders have money but their money is targeted for investments to create more wealth—to provide more power. In almost every country I know, there is a relentless circle of poverty/beggars/ disabled—and the circle is ignored by leaders. The endless circle keeps revolving, continues to grow, and it has no hope of ending.
Feeling frustrated but believing that one person can make a difference, I established The Great Wall Society. I created a nonprofit agency to target the needs of disabled street people----starting with the children.
As you read the following story, one I’ve never shared--- a story about just one of the millions of China’s poor, disabled, and medically challenged---I ask that you remember these classic words: “There but for the grace of God— go I”.
“Out for my morning run, I was forced to ignore the many street people aggressively begging all-around me. Then, running across the Walk-Over covering one of Beijing’s major highways, I quickly stopped. Instinctively, I knew the situation in front of me was serious.
The dirty, unkempt woman sat on the cold concrete, her thin, weather-worn fingers holding a small, empty bowl. It was a chilly, damp morning, and almost hidden on her lap-- covered with a ragged piece of burlap--was a small, sleeping baby. Without a word, the mother pulled the dirty cloth away from the young child’s face. I was shocked to see her baby’s severe lip and cleft palate.
I approached three taxis before my offer to pay-double-fare, produced a willing taxi driver. Even then, the driver insisted I hold the baby and sit in the front seat. Before allowing the mother to sit in his taxi, he ordered her to wait while he pulled an old rug from his trunk, and covered the back seat. The beggar woman was being treated like an outcaste by other Chinese. They considered her nothing more than a worthless stray animal, infected with the mange.
I instructed the taxi driver to take me to the nearest hospital. It was a gamble on my part because I didn’t know anything about Beijing’s Hospitals, didn’t have a doctor’s name…. spoke only a small amount of Chinese BUT…I knew how to lead with my heart.
From the outside, the hospital looked like part of an apartment complex. It didn’t look like a modern American hospital. Walking inside, I found an empty bench near the main hall, motioned for the mother to sit, and quickly placed the baby in her arms. Looking around, I saw that we were the center of attention which….was exactly what I needed at that point.
Being a tall, blonde, older Female… dressed in red running tights and a matching red Coca Cola Shirt… definitely had its advantages. All I had to say, in Chinese, was “Can you please help me? My name is Sally and I’m the American Woman who ran the length of The Great Wall”. Instantly, I was surrounded by Chinese in uniforms and ushered into the office of the Hospital’s Doctor-in-Charge.
Now, are you ready for this?!?!? The Chinese Doctor spoke English. She was a medical expert who’d studied medicine in America! More specifically, this outstanding woman had medical degrees from Harvard, she had spent her internship at Johns Hopkins and been selected to train as a surgeon-specialist in severe facial deformities at The Mayo Clinic.
NEVER under-estimate where God will lead you when you ask him to direct your path!
The Beggar-Woman was allowed to stay in a special housing unit while her little boy received the finest in reconstructive surgery. Because the medical team needed to make certain his surgery was a success, the little patient spent more than five weeks at the hospital. He soon became the “darling” of the hospital staff and was showered with gifts of love, toys, clothes, and money. The staff located his father in the family's remote village and sent him a train ticket. He was excited to join his wife and son at the hospital.
I visited the hospital every day. What a miracle I was blessed to experience. I soon learned that leaders had contacted a wealthy Chinese woman in Hong Kong who was happy to pay for the Beggar Woman's stay at the hospital as well as her baby's surgery.
When “Ching Ching” (the nick-name nurses gave their little miracle patient) was released from the hospital, it was a full day of celebration. He and his parents were being returned to their village where life would be far-better for them now. Not only did they have a newly “healed” child, but they now had ample money in their pockets.
Tears covered the many smiling faces of everyone at the celebration while Chinese newspapers and medical magazines took endless photos and lengthy notes. I was overwhelmed with the endless hugs I received from the baby’s grateful mother, Mae-Mae, with the multiple handshakes I received from Ching Ching's father….and with the loud applause I received from hospital employees."
If you know me, then you know I don’t believe in chance meetings, luck, or coincidences. I simply believe in God.