I'm the Guilty One

There is a story today in the New York Times about the AIDS epidemic among African children. In the past decade, the disease has overwhelmed the African continent and millions of adults and children now live with the virus.

The country of Lesotho, tucked away in South Africa, is not spared from this epidemic. Two pediatric AIDS clinics have opened in the country in the past year, but thousands of children still do not receive any treatment. Half of the infants who are born HIV positive die before their second birthday due to lack of medical treatment. How tragic this is considering medicines can prolong their lives by decades.

When seven year-old Tsokotsa Lepheane came to the clinic, he only weighed 36 pounds. Both of his parents have succumbed to AIDS; his mother in 2000, his father in 2003. His grandmother, who now raises him, sold homemade brooms to purchase the $5 bus fare to take him to the clinic. In recent weeks, Tsokotsa has refused to eat solid food. The only thing he ingests is hot water---or medicine, as he calls it.

The hospitals and clinics in Lesotho are filled to the brim. The infants in the AIDS ward are sometimes crammed three to a crib. Doctors and nurses are heavily overworked; the turnover rate is high. "Everybody is running away," said Maneo Tsoaeli, the head nurse of the government-run Quthing Hospital. "The situation is so pathetic."

When I read articles like this or look at photo essays of modern-day slavery, a wave of sadness spreads over my skin. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do little children have to suffer so much? And is there anything I can do to help?

And when I look at my life, I realize that there are so many instances when I criticize my government or my political leaders. There are so many times when I cry into my pillow at night, overwhelmed by the stresses in my life. And there are so many times when I wake up from my soft bed, wash my face with clean running water, grab a bite to eat from my kitchen that overflows with food, and yet I mope and groan about paying taxes and grumble about the failings of the democratic system.

At times, I look up at the sky and angrily ask, "Aren't you up there? How can you let this happen?"

And if I wasn't so angry and frustrated, I would hear the quiet and humble reply. "How are you letting this happen?"