On the way to Soweto, off a dusty two-lane road running out of Johannesburg proper, there is a small squatter village.
It is tucked between a middle class housing development and a bridge that runs over a dry creek bed. The bridge carries the Metro train, which transports the poor to work and provides a cache of victims to criminals whose only work is stealing from those who have income to lose.
As we slowly pass by, the scene is littered with unwashed children, playing in the dust left by the dryness of winter. Their beautiful ebony skin is stained red by the earth, rich with clay. They have likely grown up here, in the shanty town. They have likely never been to a hotel or a shopping mall. Very likely, a majority of them have never set foot in a school.
They play in the dust today, using an amalgamation of strung together used milk cartons as a soccer ball. Truthfully, it is useful only as a distraction from the day at hand.
The shanty town they occupy isn’t particularly terrible as shanties go. The squalor is neither worse nor better than all of the others. A couple of the shacks by the roadside even feature half-walls of brick and cinder-block. They are testaments to the fact that the tin and cardboard shack is not the end of the African ability to dream.
The children scamper around with one of these cinder walls as a backdrop, a gray curtain behind their one act play, their modern tragedy.
The wall is bare but for one line of graffiti, scrawled in deep, forboding blue.
Very simply, it reads, “For the love of money...”
Truth can cut quite deeply, stinging all the way through as it slices towards the soul.
This site, disturbingly unforgettable, reads like the heartbreaking counter to everything the gospel was about, a one-line accusation against all of us who have failed to serve the needs of the least of these due to our own desires. Too harsh? Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
“For the love of money...”