Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Two Young Men, One Shirt

Every time I drive to town, I see them.  Young men, standing on the streets and sidewalks, walking amongst the cars stuck in traffic, peddling their wares.

They sell cell phone cords, blow-up toys, packs of gum, cashew nuts, handkerchiefs, fried termites, bags of apples.  A couple times we've even seen a guy with a full aquarium on his head--fish, water, and all.


On this particular day, I noticed one young man in particular.  He was selling boxes of tissues, but it was his shirt that stood out to me.  The light changed before I could get a picture, but when I came home, I did a search to see if I could find an image of that same shirt.

Lo and behold, you can find anything on Google.  This was his shirt:


I also discovered that there are a number of varieties of this particular slogan.



Oh, the irony.

This guy very likely has no idea what his shirt says.  If he was educated enough to know English, he wouldn't be selling boxes of tissues for a living.  

He will never own a car.  He will never go to high school, because only about 7% of Tanzanians get that privilege.  He probably makes the equivalent of a dollar or two in profit every day, after standing 12 hours in the equator sun, selling his boxes of tissues.

We'll never know what his "talents" really are, because he will have no opportunity to develop them.  He's never even dared to have a "vision," because he is locked in a worldview that tells him that Africans are poor and will always be poor.  

But one thing I know for sure:  He most certainly does "give a shit."  He most certainly does care about the status of his life.  Who on earth is satisfied with a life selling tissues on the side of the road? 

This young man bought this shirt, I'm sure, from a pile of T-shirts in an open air market.  These shirts were shipped over from America, cast-offs from U.S. thrift stores, and he probably paid about 25 cents for it.

So then I thought about the young man (assume with me for a moment) who purchased this shirt for $19.99 in America, and wore it with pride.  I'm sure he thought it was funny.  

Funny as he barely passed his classes at his (free) high school.
Funny as he decided to "find himself" before starting his (heavily subsidized) college education. 
Funny as he sat on his mother's couch, eating his mother's food, playing video games after he came home from his part-time job at age 25.
Funny as he spent his weekends and his wages on partying.

These two young men, on two opposite sides of the world, couldn't be more different.  
One who has every opportunity at his fingertips, and is squandering it.  
The other who would give his right arm for that opportunity, and will probably never get it.  

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  

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