A couple of years ago, Jars of Clay and I found ourselves on our way to Key Largo, Florida, where Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford had offered to host a fundraiser for Blood:Water in their Ocean Reef home. The exclusive gated community towered along the edge of the kind of beaches that I had only seen in magazines. We commuted by golf carts, dined with millionaires, and had access to the most perfect coastal air. The Gifford’s home was stunning, their friends were so kind and welcoming, and yet I couldn’t feel further from where I had just been.
One week earlier, I was tucked beneath the mosquito net of my bed in a Kenyan village, listening to the bloodcurdling screams of a child in pain. Our clinic was just a few hundred feet from us, and you don’t have to listen too closely to know what helplessness sounds like. A two-year-old boy in desperate need of an IV had severe dehydration. It was nearly impossible to find intravenous access on his body. Baby Alfred wailed as multiple attempts were made on his tiny little hands. Eventually, the clinicians succeeded and breathed a sigh of relief, and they moved on to the next patient. Our over-worked and exhausted clinicians served through the night as the hours eked by. Every bed was full. Patients continued to come through the night, whether on the back of a motorcycle as it hastily passed along the dirt path to the hospital doors or on one of the multiple runs of the hospital ambulance.
On most days, the noises in the village are the songs of small triumphs, murmurs of hope through the daily work of transforming this community toward health and healing. But that night, staring into the darkness, through the sounds of rushing vehicles, crying babies and colleagues shuffling through the dorm to grab juice and bread for the overwhelmed nurses, I could only hear the deep, dark voices in my heart that spoke about defeat and injustice and inadequacy. Nine babies died while I was there that month, and then I returned home to a different world.
If you think too hard about how wide the gap for the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor actually is, it can make you a very cynical person. It can feel discouraging, disgusting even. But there in the hospitality of the Gifford’s family room, Kathie Lee interviewed me in front of her friends and asked me to share about the people I knew in Africa. I thought of baby Alfred and the overworked nurses and the occupied beds. And I leaned into my calling of knowing and loving people from opposite sides of the world, and introducing them to one another. And then, in a way that only she could do, Kathie Lee made a powerful and beautiful invitation to her community to give generously to our friends in Africa. And they did, almost as much as any group of people had for Blood:Water before.
No one is disqualified from responding to the love of mankind, and that’s the beautiful thing about love — it binds us to one another, regardless of what station in life we are in. In light of the recent passing of Frank Gifford, I give thanks for his life and for the spirit of generosity and love that both he and his lovely wife embody. I pray for his family as they grieve his passing, and I hope to God they know how deeply their generosity, advocacy, and faith affect these least of these.