Edward and Ranil have much in common – and they are bachelors.
Both visited us last week. Edward – a Christian came on the 24th before going to his village for the holidays. He is not married, has no immediate family and no fixed dwelling. He stays wherever he is offered a bed ‘free’ or at low cost.
Ranil – a Buddhist – visited after Christmas. He lives nearby with his mother and brother.
These visits are Christmas/year end traditions. Other workers too visit – in appreciation for any contribution made in their lives during the year. They also come in expectation of “Nathal” – colloquially “Christmas” – with the material benefits and joys it brings.
So we give them gifts in cash or kind, serve them Christmas fare, spend time in conversation and are usually content with having given them “Nathal”.
But is this enough?
Life has dealt the Edwards and Ranils of this world a bad hand and they have not been shrewd or smart or savvy enough to seize an opportunity to play a different hand.
And so both remain dependent on the largesse of those around for survival, It is not their fault entirely.
It was the luck of the draw that they were born into impoverished families that barely eked a living and had to send them out to earn their keep at a young age.
Edward (55) and Ranil (42) have been working most of their lives, but how much can you save on a daily wage to pull yourself out of poverty? Poverty that forces you to remain single because you cannot afford a wife. Poverty that makes you an ‘observer’ of life – other peoples lives.
Edward – an odd job worker may earn anywhere between Rs 700 to 1700 a day, depending on the work he gets.
Ranil gets Rs. 700 daily for work as a security guard in a junior school near his home. He is prone to asthma so the half day, quiet job suits him. It helps that he does not have to spend on transport. But he does not get paid during school and other holidays.
Do we expect our people to survive on Rs. 700 a day – or even Rs. !700? Sure, they can buy a square meal, but earning enough to only keep your belly full is a borderline existence.
The daily wage does not permit them to enjoy things that we take so much for granted. An occasional meal in a restaurant, a new shirt or trouser, a decent pair of shoes, a phone, a movie, popcorn, ice cream… so many, many, little things are beyond them. Forget about room rental and the big things like furniture, beds, linen, crockery, cutlery. That is out of the question. A chance to travel, to see your country, to see the world….. that is another universe for the Edwards and Ranils of this world.
I look around; I have so much around me right now – desks, lampshades, computers, rugs, TV , books … so much to occupy me.
And the Edwards and Ranils of this world …?
Is it any wonder then that one drinks himself into a stupor at the end of the day, whilst the other sits on a bench. That’s where he watches the world go by whilst he waits for another morn which holds no more hope than today, or yesterday, or the day before.
Or will 2018 be different because we truly celebrate Immanuel – God with us.