The Beatles said, all you need is love. Jesus, The Word, through Paul the Apostle, said in the letter to the Corinthians in the greatest treatise on the subject ever written that love bears all things, believes all things, always hopes, always endures; and of faith, hope, and love abiding – the greatest of these is love. Love never ends.
I took this picture in a township outside of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa in 2009. The estimated prevalence of HIV/AIDS in this region at the time was 39%. For those of you keeping the book at home, that means very nearly every other person you see is living with HIV/AIDS: the ravenous, indiscriminating killer sure to extinguish the life of every single carrier.
Our group had gone to a ‘house’ — erase any Western thought you have of house and home — nothing more really than a couple of cinder-blocked rooms, covered by tin and floored in concrete. Three elderly women are there giving care, as best they can, to 15 or so children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. In the townships we visited, amongst the appalling poverty, are the very old and the very young. The middle generations, decimated by disease and dismissed by an early death, are simply not present.
Three little girls are playing in the dirt when we arrive. I hand one of them a doll that is lying on the ground: the doll as needy as she; no arms, no clothes, filthy covered in grime… After I took a few pictures, I notice in the view finder The Word embroidered on her sweater. Written there is the summary of her greatest and most desperate need — LOVE.
In my mind, while sadly I cannot remember her name, she is the LoveChild. Present often in my thoughts, in the prayerful conversations I have for and with her, the still small voice rings in my ear, “Eric, you are a love child too.”
This poem was inspired by her.
How is it that you feel most loved and treasured?
You feel invisible: it is simply not so.
Let me tell you of your brilliance,
of how you are seen lovely creature
by all that I have created.
Long before places – this place – existed;
I had written your name,
your story, in the book of life.
I formed you from my innermost thoughts.
You are an expression of my character
and my deepest desires
for beauty and oneness
with what I have made.
All of my creation sings your song.
I have spoken a million suns spinning into galaxies:
it is your laughter and joy
that sources their light;
which in turn rays life and warmth
in ever present graceful outward arcs.
The mountains I pushed up
in all of their regal majesty;
bend in honor of you, exalt in you.
The soft percussion of water
in cold snow melted streams
patters a rhyme and rhythm of you;
spilling over and refreshing the rocks
with the essence of you.
Your story is carried by the wind
and is told in the rustling of pine needles
and aspen leaves.
In the canyons, an echo of you rings
passing pleasing words
from valley to peak, to river bed.
The very dirt delights in you:
counting your footfalls
with tremulous expectation.
Your tears in sorrow
I catch with highland flowers.
When cast down in darkness and doubt;
lift your gaze, turn your ear…
The Words are everywhere.
The eternal melodious music is playing…
Beauty and Love are your names.
Seen you are.