I am a pretty positive person. I look at the glass half full. I am an idealist.
Maybe that’s why when I get down, I tend to really get down. Among my many character flaws, I tend to be inconsolable. Stef, bless her heart, is a compassionate wife. She is nurturing in a really neat way, actually. She rubs on my back and tells me that it’s all gonna be OK. She is amazing.
But, I have to imagine that it is frustrating consoling the inconsolable. I stew in my sorrow. I dwell on my despair. And no matter how sweet Stef is, I sort of have to allow myself to work through it.
This last week has been emotionally draining. We’ve been working long days dealing with the typical South African issues. For instance, our friend Ellen was buried this weekend and we are busy Monday and Tuesday with two more funerals for people in the church who have left us. On top of that we are watching our friend Andre die, waiting for the call to come from his mother. So, life can be heavy.
Still, all of that doesn’t really get me down. You know, death is sort of a certainty. So, I get that. But maybe that laid the foundation for what I saw on Saturday morning.
So there we were on Saturday, on the way to spending the day at the Groenpunt Maximum Security prison. About 10 minutes into our 2 hour drive to the prison, we passed an inconspicuous yet heavily fortified office complex. A very unassuming sign said, “Corporate Headquarters, De Beers Corporation - A Diamond is Forever.”
The De Beers world headquarters!! This is the company that controls about 60% of the world’s diamonds and for years had a complete monopoly. They have massive vaults where they keep the stones, only allowing so many out a year so they can keep the prices artificially high. (There are some great books out on the company, which is really fascinating. My favorite book on the topic is called Blood Diamonds. It would be worth your time.)
Not two minutes later, now on the highway, we passed the exit for Soweto, one of the largest, most impoverished, crime-ridden, AIDS-infested slums in the world. They live in squalor, in the shadow of one of the most secretive and most wealthy corporations on the planet.
And I was grieved. Deeply.
Why should some suffer as others so haughtily go about their way? And the picture of the diamond company having starving neighbors was nothing short of abhorrent in my heart.
Then I thought, “What if Christians began selling their diamonds? What if Christians simply replaced their stones with simple bands? What if Christians decided that the inequality was too much for them to stomach?"
Just imagine. A church with a 100 women that each had a diamond on their finger worth $1000 (a conservative estimate) could raise $100,000 just by selling off those diamonds. On a global scale, that $100,000 doesn’t go very far. It is a mere drop in the bucket. But you can be sure that it would radically transform at least a few communities.
Take the next step. Imagine a church with 500 women that each had a $2000 diamond on their finger (plus a few matching earrings or bracelets in their jewelry boxes). Those women would raise $1 million dollars. That could change the world in a much more noticeable way.
Now imagine an entire city catches the movement. We would be talking about tens of millions of dollars, if not more. (This occurs even as the local market for diamonds becomes saturated and prices begin to fall...just so you know I did think of such market forces.)
Now, hear me. I’m not trying to guilt anyone with diamonds into anything. If the idea to sell them in order to redistribute that wealth resonates and the Holy Spirit works, that’s your heart and your decision. We all have things that are unnecessary and we could all find another dollar for someone who needs it.
I was just struck by the proximity of the global diamond seller (who has manipulated and tricked their way into the hearts and pocketbooks of hundreds of millions of customers) to the ghetto with millions of unwashed, disease-infested people struggling to survive, or to find the will to survive at that.
Maybe someone more influential or powerful or persuasive than me will see what I saw and their heart will interpret the vision in another way. Maybe they will find a way to tell the story better. Maybe then we can escape the treadmill of want and experience a sliver of the joy that comes with sacrifice and selflessness. (Just to avoid sounding preachy, know that I am not there yet either, but I am learning to enjoy the fullness of giving...)
I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:
"Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.
Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind."
I may not shake the sight from Saturday for awhile. But I am starting to feel better about it. I am starting to see the glass half-full again. Maybe we will make a difference. I pray that you hear my heart. We can make a change. It can start with the smallest thing. It can start with something as simple as selling a stone.