Every Small Bit Helps

Charity Organizing Personal Writings Wade's World

From: December 24, 2022

            Baja California           Charity is a funny thing, not funny ha-ha, but funny in the sense that it has a million faces, or at least, as we have often discussed about tax-exempt, nonprofit hospitals, it should have.  As organizers, we often scoff at charity as band aid fixes that might ameliorate for the moment, but leave the wounds underneath untouched.  At the same time, we are realists, and know that when someone is at the office door desperate for help, calling for an action isn’t a solution.  We know it takes a village. We either pick up the phone or refer people to a charity.  It’s not what we do, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t understand that even as we hope to change the world, we also realize that many times people are desperate and can’t wait.  When too often there is more month than money, no heat in the cold, no food for the babies, we all play our part in our own separate ways.

I thought about this when Ed Loupe, known as Doctor Ed as one of the hosts on Little Rock’s KABF came to me with a request.  His daughter was visiting the USA, and he thought I might be interested in talking with her.  She was an ex-pat who had lived in Kuwait with her family for many years, which was interesting in itself, but she had also founded a small charity there, and he wondered if I would be willing to interview her.  Of course, I would, and Sheryll Meerza was a delightful and good-hearted guest when I spoke to her recently on Wade’s World about her work with Operation Hope – Mission of Mercy Kuwait.

Meerza and her family were solid members of the upper middle class ex-pat community in Kuwait, but, as she explained to me, that didn’t mean that she was blind to the divisions between rich and poor.  We have all been reminded of how much the oil-rich countries of the Middle East depend on migrant labor in the terrible stories that occupied the World Cup in Qatar about their working and living conditions.  Meerza would see migrants on the street in the spells of colder weather or caught between jobs on working disputes and her faith and personality wouldn’t let her not respond.  As she described her epiphany in a local publication:

I was out shopping one day, irritated at not being able to find what I was looking (and well aware of my ugly attitude) when my eyes fell upon a pair of sockless feet in a pair of much-worn shoes, which were clearly two sizes too large for their owner. I looked up and what I saw broke my heart. The janitor wore a short-sleeved cotton work jumper, as strikingly threadbare as he was thin. His gauntness left no doubt that he was malnourished, but more startling than this, his eyes. They were devoid of any feeling, windows to his internal brokenness. I had never seen such brokenness in all my life and was immediately overcome by grief. Now ashamed of my ugly determination, rude glares, and sense of entitlement, I fled in tears.

Later, she and her husband found the man the next day and met the need.  The next year she reached out to others among her friends and associates for donations of everything from money to old clothes to whatever, beginning in 2005.  It wasn’t long before the response was filling up her garage and any unoccupied space.  She enlisted other volunteers like herself and distributed the bounty where it was needed year after year.

Did she change the situation for migrant workers in Kuwait?  Of course not.  Did she make a difference?  Absolutely!  Did the change affect her and her community as much as it did the thousands of migrant workers they assisted?  I’m betting the answer is an emphatic YES.

Making change is everyone’s business, and every shoulder on the wheel is important, as long as we’re all pulling in the same direction with people at the foremost, so here’s to all of the Sheryll Meerza’s doing their part.  I get it!  I hope all of you also understand what we do, and why it’s critical as well and as deserving as support, so that we can join in both stopping the bleeding and healing the wounds.