There is an old saying, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone!” The truth about this saying is that we often do not realize and appreciate the value of something or someone until we lose them. We take a lot of things for granted, ranging from the basic necessities of life to luxuries which we enjoy but other people from poor countries never will.
Back in 2000, I was fortunate enough to be sent for a mission experience. After arriving in Mexico City I was driven further and further away from civilization and was dropped off at a very remote village of fewer than 20 families. Running water and electricity were luxuries beyond their dreams – the reason being that the government, understandably, wasn’t going to spend a fortune to create an infrastructure to provide electricity, water and sewer system, which we see as basic necessities, to benefit a few. The local people were accustomed to not having; they lacked the essentials of our standard of life, and it didn’t seem to bother them. But what bothered me the most was that for them, dreams and aspirations were inaccessible, and along with them, hope. How could dreams, aspirations, and hope be inaccessible, one might ask? After all, they might be the only things they could afford, because they are free!
While I was there, the local people told me that mega corporations from the U.S. had made a backdoor deal with the government and had bought out all their land – the land which they call home, which was passed down to them through many generations, was suddenly stolen from them, right before their eyes, and sadly, they couldn’t do anything about it. So in order to make ends meet, they grew coffee beans. The deal was this: the corporations provide the land and the seeds, and the locals’ provide the labour – they plant, harvest, dry the coffee beans, crush them all by hand, and put them in cans. I saw the work, and I even tried to help them, but I was very little use to them because I was not used to the backbreaking work. After all their hard work, they received a couple of dollars a week for their wage. A couple of dollars…it sure sounds like a ‘great deal’ to me. Sorry, I meant to say, it sounds like a great deal for the corporations – but for the farmers? Gross injustice, of course! One of the problems with capitalism and globalization is that while some do profit, they usually do so at the expense of somebody else.
Although the local people lack formal education, they are not unintelligent. They are smart people and they get it! The battle against the powers-that-be cannot be won. So dreams and aspirations are in the realm of impossibility. When you take away dreams and aspirations from people, you are left with hopelessness (without hope). So what do hopeless people do? Nothing. And that is exactly the problem. They do nothing because nothing can be done. Only caring neighbours and conscientious powers-that-be could do something. And if we come together, we can do something: we can help to roll away the stone as we see in today’s gospel and help others come to light – to give them hope and help them to dream!